A deal announced Monday between Apple and the Beatles brings peace at last. The legal battling over whose Apple Corp. rights should prevail spanning two decades has come to an acceptable agreement that both sides can live with. This sees off the otherwise inevitable courtroom showdown scheduled for later this month in London.
A judge was to hear Apple Corps’ appeal of a May decision in its latest trademark-infringement suit, in which London’s High Court ruled that the computer and gadget maker did not violate the terms of a 1991 agreement by using its fruity logo on iPods and iTunes.
With the end of more than two decades of legal wrangling, which could have seen iTunes part of the music catalog and the iPod-hawking Apple Inc., the two sides settle the matter of who’s who in Apple Corp. Before the deal things could have seen the Beatles’ similarly monikered company, Apple Corps, terms. Fortunately, both have resolved their differences.
“We love the Beatles, and it has been painful being at odds with them over these trademarks,” Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement. “It feels good to resolve this in a positive manner, and in a way that should remove the potential of further disagreements in the future.”
Both formerly opposing sides defended the company’s names and logos they believed sole entitlement to fiercely. While Apple Corps was launched in 1968 by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr to oversee the Fab Four’s business interests with a photo realistic green apple as its logo; Apple CEO Steve Jobs cofounded what was then known as Apple Computers in 1977.
He has previously acknowledged choosing the company name and graphical logo (which, unlike Apple Corps, has a bite missing) in tribute to the Beatles, his favorite band. In 1978, a trademark-infringement lawsuit brought against him by the Beatles. Apple Computers settled that suit in 1981 for $80,000 and a promise to never enter the music business. However, Jobs found himself being sued again by Apple Corps a decade later over music capabilities in Apple’s computers.
By 1991, the companies struck a $26 million settlement to resolve the second dispute. That deal again permitted Apple Corps to control use of the name and image in the musical domain while Apple Inc. was given free reign over its computer endeavors. That is until the iPod became a pop-cultural phenomenon and the iTunes store grew into the biggest online music purveyor.
Neil Aspinall, manager of Apple Corps headed back to court for a third time on behalf of the surviving band members McCartney and Starr and the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison to claim that Jobs’ company broke the 1991 deal. The judge, a self-proclaimed iPod owner, disagreed and Apple Corps appealed.
In January, when trumpeting the new iPhone, Jobs proclaimed the company was changing its name to Apple Inc. and expanding its business to include more high-tech gizmos in addition to Macintosh computers the dispute settlement was imminent.
His decisions to change the company name had opened the way for the deal to be made. Thus, bringing closure to the battling, the wrangling and the fiercely attacked or counter attacks that have brought both sides to their two decades long pursuit of ultimate ownership. Something as simple as Jobs changing the name brings the battling to its overdue ending.
Industry analysts and fans alike point to the just-announced deal as a precursor for the band’s iconic songs and albums to finally be sold via iTunes. Some rumor sites have gone so far to predict Jobs unveiling a Beatles-themed iPod. A spokeswoman for Apple Corps said the agreement announced on Monday did not change anything regarding the group’s online plans, but speculation has been rife the Beatles’ music will be sold online in the future.
While financial terms were not disclosed, the new deal gives Apple Inc. ownership of all of the trademarks concerning “Apple,” including the logo for iTunes. In return, the computer maker agreed to license certain trademarks-the ones pertaining to specific music-back to Apple Corps. Both sides also agreed to end litigation and pay their own legal costs.
“It is great to put this dispute behind us and move on. The years ahead are going to be very exciting times for us,” said Apple Corps manager Neil Aspinall. “We wish Apple Inc. every success and look forward to many years of peaceful cooperation with them.”