Thursday, April 15, 2004

Apple v. Apple

Did you know that the Beatles record company is named Apple Corps? The Beatles were around before Apple the computer maker, which was founded in 1976. Are you beginning to think “hmmm, sounds like there may be trademark issues here?”

In 1981 the Beatles’ Apple Corps sued Apple for trademark infringement, they settled out of court for a substantial sum. Apple (computers) also agreed to stay out of music related business as part of the settlement. Because Apple is now cranking out iPods and particularly because of iTunes, the most popular of the online music stores, Apple Corps has had it. They recently brought a suit claiming Apple has violated their old 1981 agreement with Apple Corps to stay out of music related business.

One problem for the computer maker is that they don't actually make money from iTunes, so paying Apple Corps off may not be a great option, on the other hand, iTunes is promising and Apple would certainly not give it up as an Apple trademarked business.

Like much IP law, this suit will probably come down to an interpretation of that old contract and of the applicable contract law. This “may turn out to be more a question of contract law and contract interpretation than a commonsense question of what a music product would be." The article points out that Apple could just rename iTunes for Britain only. We shall see.

The most interesting goings on in the case so far is that both American and British courts have ruled that their own law should apply and so will both hear the case. This means that the companies will have to battle it out twice and may get different verdicts in each country – this probably benefits Apple Corps because they get two chances to win. This doesn't happen often so we’ll be keeping an eye on the case.

Via this article in The Boston Globe.


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