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A U.K. judge rules that the computer maker's iTunes online store doesn't infringe on trademarks held by the music label.

Paul McDougall

May 8, 2006

2 Min Read

Apple Computer's long and winding court battle with Beatles music label Apple Corps came to a close Monday after a U.K. judge ruled that the PC maker's iTunes online store doesn't infringe on trademarks held by the label.

Attorneys for Apple Corps argued that iTunes, which allows users to purchase and download individual songs, breaches a 1991 agreement between the two companies, under which they vowed not to enter each other's businesses. Apple Computer paid Apple Corps $26.5 million under the deal. Deciding in favor of the tech company, London High Court Justice Edward Mann said the launch of iTunes in 2003 made Apple Computer a shopkeeper, not a music producer. Thus, it didn't violate the 1991 agreement: "The use of the Apple logo...does not suggest a relevant connection with the creative work," said Justice Mann in a written ruling. The case was the latest in a series of trademark tussles between Apple Corps--owned by Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and the heirs of the late George Harrison and John Lennon--and Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs, a self-professed Beatles fan. The iTunes infringement action was originally filed in 2004. Apple Corps had asked the High Court to prohibit Apple Computer from using its apple-with-a-bite-missing logo on iTunes and award financial damages. Justice Mann's rejection of those claims doubtless comes as a relief to Jobs. His company has spent millions marketing and promoting the iTunes service, which has sold more than one billion song downloads. Much of that promotional material features the company's familiar logo. The record company's trademark, created in 1968, is a fully intact, green granny smith. Justice Mann also ordered Apple Corps to pay for the computer maker's legal costs. Following the ruling, shares of Apple Computer were trading slightly higher in premarket activity.

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Paul McDougall is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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