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Apple sues Apple over trademark

Written by Petteri Pyyny (Google+) @ 12 Sep 2003 13:06 User comments (14)

Apple Corps, the corporation owned by The Beatles, announced today that they have sued Apple Computer over its iTunes service and violation against companies' previous agreement on trademark use.
Apple Corps was founded back in 1968 and handles virtually all Beatles' business issues. Companies have fought over the trademarks earlier as well, back in 1989 the lawsuit was settled out of court by Apple Computers paying $27 million to Apple Corps and agreeing not to enter the music business.

Now, since Apple Computers has been very much in the music business during the last couple of years with its iPod digital audio player and its mega-successful iTunes music store, Apple Corps' opinion is that Apple Computers has violated against the contract they signed in 1989.

Source: CNet

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14 user comments

112.9.2003 14:51

Let it be, let it be... Whenever there's success, there are always scavengers around. But who would have thought Beatles, the most successful band ever, would demean themselves in such a manner..

Jari Ketola

212.9.2003 17:10

Jari has it backwards. Apple Corps first created the Apple trademark in 1968. Apple Computer scavenged the apple trademark from Apple Corps, then settled the trademark dispute with Apple Corps in 1989. Apple Computer has now tried to expand its envelope of the apple trademark into the music industry, where Apple Corps has a long time established presence. Trademarks are legally earned on a first come, first serve bases. The creator of an idea should have the control over how that idea is used. Jari would likely want some compensation if I used his name or his firm's name to take some of their market share. Apple Computer would also likely object if I created and marketed a popular proprietary computer system, named it Macintosh and branded it with an apple logo. Apple Computer, due do its relationship with the Beatles, should have foreseen the conflict, and asked permission first. Apple Corps' claim is definitely justifiable. The Beatle's have not demeaned themselves in protecting their music trademark. Parser

312.9.2003 19:41

when i think of Apple computers, the beatles are probably the farthest thing from my mind and vice versa. The point being we all know the difference between the two, and really, dont both companies have enough money already?! i could see the mom and pop store on the corner fighting over it's name, but it makes no freaking sense why two huge money making companies that have been established for years would worry about such petty things. - friend of the forums, great guitar player
#afterdawn (well i have no idea where it is anymore)

412.9.2003 22:41

Parser, True. But still.. I think no-one actually associates Apple and iTunes with Apple Records, The Beatles, Abbey Road, John Lennon or anything else for that matter. Maybe if the service was called "Apple Record Store" or something, I could see some justification to their claims. The bottom line is: does Apple Computers benefit from the fact that there's also a company named Apple Records. I doubt it has had any effect on the sales at iTunes, but Apple Corp. has every right to feel otherwise, and pursue their intrests. It's just bad publicity for them -- just like RIAA's hunt of the evil twelve-year-olds. (And no, I'm not saying a row between two multi-billion-companies is comparable to a multi-billion-market intrest group suing private individuals.)

Jari Ketola

513.9.2003 23:36

Jari, You may be ethically right about the money and market share considerations, but the Beatles also might have a legitimate dispute, ethically and legally. I'm not assuming about revenues, but the Beatles might want to reserve the name "Apple Music" for any future ventures. The real question might be, "does somebody associate the term "Apple Music" with "Apple Corps" or "Apple Records". Apple Computers is using "Apple Music" in advertisements and web pages. I naturally relate "Apple Music" with the Beatles. "Apple iTunes" might be acceptable, but it cuts close. "Apple Computer iTunes" or a variation of that name might be the most acceptable. The law might say that evidence of market share harm is necessary before the law is invoked, but I'm also not making that assumption. I have not read the law text. The law could say that any infringement on trademark, aside from any consequent revenue gain, could invoke the law.

614.9.2003 3:33

Hey Guys, I think we are overlooking the fact that there was a contractual agreement between the 2 companies. In my opinion, Apple Corp is justified, because of the exclusion clause shown in their contract, concerning music. Apple Computers should understand what they agreed to. Best to All! Rodgers

714.9.2003 3:37

Interesting part in the U.S. trademark system (I honestly don't know if thiase is being held in the U.S. or in the UK, where, I assume, Apple Corps in registered at) is the fact that even that you would be perfectly OK with someone using your trademark and would be more than happy to see them to continue the use, you have to act for that infringement. You have exactly two options: to license the trademark to the other party or sue them. If you don't do either one of those within reasonable time that you've been aware of the trademark infringement, you lose your trademark for good. I mean permanently and you can't get it back, no matter what, it becomes public property at that stage. That is the reason why Google has sued several Google-related sites for using their logos/etc, that's why (well, one part of it, as the companies here are Kleenex's competitors) Kleenex has sued companies using word "kleenex" instead of "tissue" on their products (it is still speculated whether the word itself has already, despite Kleenex protecting the word in courts, turned in the US to mean general paper tissue and not a specific brand. Same kind of speculation applies to Hoover brand. If such case is decided, the trademark to the name -- not logos, etc -- will get invalidated.).

Petteri Pyyny (pyyny@twitter)

815.9.2003 4:45

well this is what its going to well Apple Corp has an aggreement and they were aloud to produse items that will play music but they aggreed to stay out of the music biz... and someone who wrote the aggreement was a visionary anow Apple computers needs to make either an ammendment or lose the Itunes ... but why hasnt the riaa jumped in then and claimed that they are distributing music illeaglly? because then they whould waste all their money fighting a company not an end user who is broke already......

915.9.2003 12:32

Apple Computer and Apple Corps are simply different. Apple Computer opened a music store almost like many others around the world, selling CDs. This is not a music company like Apple Corps. Because the Beatles are less and less well known by living and upcoming young generations, it is much more that the Apple Corps. participates on the well known Apple Computer Company and its itunes Music Store, than vice versa. On my point of view: The good - Apple Computer the bad and the ugly - Apple Corp. What about Big Apple?

1018.9.2003 1:14

Viewpoint neglects the fact that "Apple Music" is more likely to be property of the Beatles than Apple Computer, regardless of who is exploiting whom, or which firm is more popular. (Oh yeah, I may be from the country, but I still dig the Beatles, who wouldn't, lol.) Apple Computer is wrong because they previously agreed to keep that "Apple" brand out of the music market. Apple Computer should have to modify the way it brands iTunes, by adding another name as a prefix or suffix. Petteri has a good point. If you market a new trademark and somebody else, like Apple Computer, tries to steal it, then you are virtually forced to sue or negotiate a license agreement to prevent losing total rights to your original idea. The Beatles are right on this one. They have contractual leverage and they were simply there first.

1118.9.2003 1:16

Oh yeah, Big Apple had to add "Big" to satisfy the trademark law.

1227.9.2003 6:46

Apple Computer has a 'Computer' to satisfy the law. iTunes does not sound like Apple Records. And iTunes Music Store is not 'Music Business', it is a music store like many many many thousands around the world, selling records. Probably it is a marketing trick of Apple Records because they just try to sell new records. It looks like beeing a parasite campaign.

1327.9.2003 10:18

I kinda understand Apple Record's point-of-view. Think about us, AfterDawn Ltd. If you would set up a company called something like AfterDawn Software Inc, I think it would be kinda unfair and confusing, even that you have the "Software" in your company name. Arguments like "but Apple Computer is bigger" don't really carry a weight -- I'm sure that Apple Records was bigger back in 1980 or so when Apple Computers just started.

Petteri Pyyny (pyyny@twitter)

1430.9.2003 13:59

OK lets's have a closer look. Apple is a word that is daily used, not a synthetic design. Sun is a word that is daily used too. These words cannot be owned by any company. Therefore you will find with simple queries in a search engine Apple Computer, Apple Records, Apple Co. Apple Vacations, Apple Moving Company .... Sun Microsystems, Sun Record Company, Sun Life Financial, Sun Company .... and many other examples which show that extensions are used widely to specify a company. If one has a clear view, then he should see, that Apple Records is wrong, fully wrong.

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