Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Monday, 8 May 2006 14:45 UK

At the core of the Apple dispute

The trademark battle between The Beatles' record label Apple Corps and US giant Apple Computer is the latest move in a dispute spanning more than 25 years.

Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs
More than a billion songs have been sold on iTunes
A judge at the High Court in London rejected Apple Corps' claim that Apple Computer's iTunes music download store breached an agreement between the two firms.

But their battle began at a time when such technology had not been imagined, let alone invented.

The late Beatle George Harrison spotted an advert for Apple Computer while flicking through a British magazine in 1980.

He felt there was potential for trademark conflict with Apple Corps - set up by The Beatles in 1968 to release their songs and manage their creative affairs.

Now owned by Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the widows of John Lennon and Harrison, Sir Paul was responsible for Apple Corps's pun name.

Apple Computer, the firm whose Macintosh machine helped launch the personal computer industry, was set up in a California garage in 1977.

The Beatles
The Beatles' music is not available on iTunes
The computer firm denies its name was inspired by the fact that co-founder Steve Jobs was a Beatles fan.

"There's no connection," a spokesman said. "They wanted to be in front of Atari in the phone book."

After much discussion, the two firms drew up an agreement in November 1981 to share their use of the Apple trademark.

Apple Computer would use its name and logo only in the computer business, while The Beatles' company would use it in the field of entertainment.

But by the mid-1980s, Apple Computer began to develop computers with sound capabilities, and in 1987 it sought to negotiate a new, less restrictive trademark agreement.

Talks between the two firms broke down, yet in January 1988 Apple Computer enabled the Musical Digital Interface (Midi) - a device that lets computer users create, record and edit music - to be used in its machines.


When the computer firm refused to withdraw its Midi-enabled products in 1989, Apple Corps began court proceedings, claiming the computer company had breached their 1981 agreement.

After more than two years in London's High Court, including a 10-day diversion to the Court of Appeal and one day in Brussels, the two sides reached agreement.

While details of the settlement were never disclosed, it was believed Apple Corps emerged with around $30m (16m) from the computer firm. For more than a decade, the battle between Apple and Apple appeared to be over.

But in April 2003, Apple Computer launched iTunes, which allowed Mac users in the US to download songs from the internet for 99 cents each.

Market leader

Now available in more than 20 countries, iTunes has sold more than one billion songs in under three years.

It is reported to have a share of about 80% in the US music downloads market, while recent research put its UK share at 44%.

It capitalised on the 2001 launch of the portable digital music player iPod.

But by releasing iTunes, Apple Corps stated in September 2003 that Apple Computer had entered the entertainment business and breached their trademark agreement.

Apple Computer responded: "Unfortunately, Apple and Apple Corps now have differing interpretations of this agreement and will need to ask a court to resolve this dispute."

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