All you Need is Litigation: Apple versus Apple

Jun 5, 2006 | 2374 Views | 0 Comments

Iʼm one of the worldʼs original Beatlemaniacs. Iʼm so proud of my big Beatle love that I unashamedly admit Iʼm old enough to have seen the Fab Four on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964 (well, I was only four – but I’ve never forgotten the thrill). While my childhood friends dreamed of one day visiting Disney World and meeting Mickey Mouse, I fantasized about visiting Liverpool and London to walk in the footsteps of my idols. (This dream came true in 1987 during my first trip to the U.K.)

Back in my Flower Power youth, I saw the Beatles as the crowned kings of the Peace and Love Generation. They were musical innovators, always “thinking different.”  In 1968 they became the first rock band to form its own multi-media company, Apple Corps, and record label, Apple Records. They pioneered the use of synthesizers in their recordings. Years later, musicians would shun the use of computer-created sounds (the British group Queen boasted “no synths” on all their early albums). But the Beatles loved to experiment with all that was new, so it was cool to Moog. They were to music what the Appleʼs Mac is to computers: the pinnacle of creativity.Apple Records - Abbey Road Side B

I must say Iʼm disappointed that my two favorite Apples have been engaged in legal haggling for the past 25 years. Apple Corps has been battling Apple Computer over the use of the Apple logo since 1981. In 1991 the two entities reached an agreement in which each side agreed not to enter the otherʼs field of business business. Apple Computer paid the Beatlesʼ company $26.5 million in an out-of-court settlement, and in return received “a considerably expanded field of use.” In the latest litigation, Apple Corps filed a suit against the computer company, claiming that the iTunes Music Store violated the 1991 agreement by using the logo to sell music.

In early May, London Judge Edward Mann ruled in favor of the computer company, concluding that “the use of the Apple logo is a fair and reasonable use of the mark in connection with the [iTunes] service, which does not go further and unfairly or unreasonably suggest an additional association with the creative works themselves.” I canʼt say I entirely blame Beatles, Inc. for trying to protect its intellectual property. Apple Corps was a big, bold idea when it first hit the music scene. Nowadays, a lot more people associate an Apple logo with computers than with vinyl records. In the end, itʼs just business.

But I canʼt help wondering what the late, great Beatle George Harrison would have thought of this latest litigation. In the early 1970s his life was turned upside down when he was sued by Bright Tunes Publishing, which claimed he plagiarized the 1962 Chiffons pop song “Heʼs So Fine” by using the songʼs melody in his classic hit, “My Sweet Lord” (Iʼll never believe he consciously stole that tune to pay tribute to the Lord!). He lost the case and spent years trying to come to grips with the outcome. Iʼll bet he never anticipated being part of a suing party.

This article appeared in the June 2006 issue of the County of Westmoreland Mac User Group (CowMug) newsletter.

Tagged: apple, legal, litigation

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