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Beatles and Apple Computer await court decision

Monday, May 08, 2006

London (Reuters): Judgement is due today in a High Court battle between the Beatles' record company Apple Corps and Apple Computer Inc. The music firm says the computer company has violated a 1991 trademark agreement by moving into the music business through its market-leading iTunes online store. Apple Computer argued in court hearings in London earlier this year that iTunes was primarily a data transmission service, permitted by the agreement.

Apple Corps counsel Geoffrey Vos argued that Apple Computer could go ''into the recorded music business in any way they want''. ''What they cannot do is use the Apple (trade) mark to do it,'' he said. Apple Corps, owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono and the estate of George Harrison, has sued Apple Computer twice before.

The 1991 out-of-court settlement, which included a 26 million dollars payment by Apple Computer, set out areas in which each party would have exclusive use of their respective fruit-shaped logos. Apple Corps is seeking a judgement of liability and an injunction against Apple Computer. If it succeeds, a subsequent trial will assess damages.

Apple Computer has become a major force in the music industry, selling some 14 million iPod portable music players and more than one billion songs from the iTunes Music Store. The Beatles have consistently refused to license their songs to any online music services but it emerged during the High Court proceedings that Apple Corps was digitally remastering the entire Beatles catalogue, paving the way for selling the songs online.

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