Beatles court battle begins

Apple computers take on the Fab Four

A long awaited legal battle between The Beatles‘ record label Apple Corps and computer firm Apple began today (March 29) in a London court

A showdown between the two sides was expected after the Fab Four’s record label accused the technology company of breaching a trademark agreement by selling music.

Both companies reached a deal over the use of the apple trademark in 1991, which stopped Apple Computer from entering the music business. Now Apple Corps claims the US company’s online iTunes Music Store has broken that agreement.


Apple Corps, owned by former Beatles stars Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr plus the widows of their bandmates John Lennon and George Harrison, was founded in 1968.

Apple Computer was founded eight years later.

Geoffrey Vos QC, representing Apple Corps at the High Court in London, said the computer firm had been keen to use the Apple brand on its Music Store and offered to buy the rights from Apple Corps for $1m (£576,500) just before iTunes launched, reports the BBC.

The offer was rejected by Neil Aspinall, Apple Corps‘ managing director.

Vos claimed Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs had said downloading music from the internet was now no different from buying a record.

He argued the US computing giant violated the deal by selling music online and its argument that it used the apple mark only in connection with a delivery system was “plainly wrong”.


Vos told the court that calling iTunes a mere electronic device was a “perversion” of the 1991 deal.

He added that the Apple logo was prominent on the iTunes website and almost every advert for it carried the logo.

The computer company’s logo is an apple with a neat bite out of the side. The record label is represented by a complete green Granny Smith apple.

An agreement between the two companies to share use of the Apple trademark was first established in 1981.

But as Apple Computer‘s business increasingly entered the world of entertainment, the company sought a less restrictive trademark agreement and a court battle ensued in 1989.

Details of the eventual deal, thrashed out in London‘s High Court over two years, were never disclosed – but Apple Corps was believed to have emerged with about $30m (£17m) from the computer firm.

The launch of the iPod in 2001 and the launch of Apple‘s iTunes music store two years later has prompted the latest battle between the two firms.

About three million songs are downloaded every day from the service. However, tracks by The Beatles have not been licensed for downloading and are not available on the service.

Apple Corps is seeking to reinstate the 1991 deal and receive financial damages.