Apple beats the Beatles

The Beatles today lost their trademark case against Apple’s iTunes Music Store. A London judge has ruled that Apple’s online store doesn’t infringe on

The Beatles today lost their trademark case against Apple’s iTunes Music Store. A London judge has ruled that Apple’s online store doesn’t infringe on a 1991 agreement between the computer company and the Beatle’s record label, Apple Corps.

The ruling means that iTunes Music Store will be able to continue trading with an Apple logo, while Apple Corps – which brought the case – has been ordered to pay its rivals legal costs of around £1.5m. The record label is expected to appeal the ruling.

The judge Mr Justice Mann said that iTunes didn’t infringe on the agreement not to use an Apple logo because it was “a form of electronic shop” rather than being directly involved in music creation.  

The ruling closes the latest chapter in a story that stretches back three decades. In 1976, Steve Jobs called his new computer company Apple in homage to the record label of his favourite band, The Beatles (and because he’d been working on an apple farm that summer). After legal wrangling, the two companies came to agreement in 1981 over shared usage of the Apple name and logo – with Jobs agreeing to stay out of the music business.

Fortunately for gadget fans, he didn’t. First, Apple released a computer with increased audio capability, introducing recording features and a system sound with the not-very-cryptic name ‘Sosumi’. So Apple Corps sued again, and this time won £17m and a more tightly worded agreement to prevent the computer company from distributing records and CDs – but not, it turns out, downloads.

Which is good news for the computer company that now sells three million songs a day through its world-beating online music store. However, it’s worth noting there’s still a significant gap in the ‘B’ section of the iTunes catalogue.