Apple Computer Is Due to Contest Beatles' Lawsuit in U.K. Court Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Computer Inc. will return to London's High Court today to contest the latest lawsuit brought by a company owned by the Beatles over the personal-computer maker's use of the Apple trademark.
Apple Corps Ltd., owned by the four Beatles or their families, says the Californian company's iTunes online music store breaches a 1991 agreement forbidding the computer maker from using the trademark for any works ``whose principal content is music and, or performances.'' Apple Computer would retain the logo for its ``core business,'' court documents said.
``Providing both businesses stay within their particular areas, then trademark law allows them to coexist,'' said John Linneker, a partner in intellectual property at London law firm Taylor Wessing. ``It's when computers meet the music industry that the trademark conflict blows up.''
The iTunes product allows people to download songs from the Web for 99 cents each and transfer them to Apple Computer's iPod music players. Chief Executive Steve Jobs is betting on digital music devices to help drive sales as the company's share of the computer market wanes.
The Beatles' lawyers will argue in a two to three day hearing that the case should be heard in London. The computer maker's lawyers contest this and have asked a Californian judge for the case to proceed in San Jose.
The two companies' original agreement on the Apple trademark, signed in 1981, allowed the Californian company to use the name only for the sale of computers. Apple Computer later used the logo for computers to edit and record music, prompting the Beatles' company to file a lawsuit in 1989. The companies settled their dispute in 1991 and signed a new agreement after a trial lasting more than 100 days at the High Court.
That contract stipulated Apple Computer could use the logo for computers, data processing and telecommunications, while the Beatles could retain it for music, according to documents filed by the pop group's lawyers at the High Court.
Apple Corps, run by Neil Aspinall in London, is owned by Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison. It tries to control the use of the Beatles' image and work by issuing licenses and retaining final approval on any products. The Apple record label released the White Album and Hey Jude in 1968.
Apple Computer was founded by Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976 in Jobs' garage. The men, both college dropouts, sold their first machine without a monitor, keyboard or casing.