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3/29/2006
04:11 PM
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Beatles Say 'Apple' Is Forbidden Fruit

Apple Computer is back in a British court defending itself against the music company Apple Corps, which claims a previous agreement prevents the computer company from selling music.

The Beatles have a few key facts in their favor as they face off against Apple Computer Inc., according to an attorney who specializes in copyright and trademark litigation.

The music company Apple Corps and the computer giant by the same name appeared in a British court Wednesday to present arguments about whether the computer company is violating a previous agreement by selling and distributing music through iTunes and iPods.

Thomas Speiss, of Baker & Hostetler in Los Angeles, said that three of the most important factors in deciding intellectual property rights appear to be in the music company's favor. The factors likely to weigh most heavily in determining whether Steve Jobs' company has infringed on the Apple music company's name, logo and territory are: the similarity of the marks, the relatedness of goods and services and the similarity of marketing channels.

"It's a slam dunk for the Beatles," Speiss said during an interview Wednesday.

Apple Computer reportedly paid Apple Corps $80,000 to settle one lawsuit and $26.5 million to settle another over the use of the Apple name and logo. He said Apple Computer has made a move indicating it is cheaper to go to trial than settle.

"Can you even imagine what it is now," Speiss asked.

As part of earlier settlements, the companies came to an agreement, which Apple Corps claims included a promise to stay out of the music business. Apple Computer claims the agreement applied to recordings on physical formats, not to online digital file transfers.

Since that time, Apple announced that consumers have downloaded more than 1 billion songs from iTunes. The company has also sold and distributed exclusive music for its iPods.

As the computer giant grows, so do the number of challenges it faces.

Last week, the lower house of French parliament passed a bill requiring online music providers to make their products interoperable. Jobs is fighting the bill, which must pass the upper house to become law.

In London, the music company is asking that the computer company stop selling music with the Apple name and logo through iTunes and iPods. It seeks damages in an unspecified amount.

"All you need is love or a blank paycheck," Speiss said.

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