Apple v. Apple opens in the High Court

Apple v. Apple opens in the High Court

Beatles label accuses Apple Computer of violating 1991 agreement

The Beatles hit Let it be was certainly not befitting the mood in the High Court in London yesterday.

Apple Corps, the record label owned by Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and George Harrison's widow Olivia, is accusing Apple Computer of violating a 1991 agreement by using the Apple name to sell music downloads through its iTunes Music Store.

"Apple Computer can go into the recorded music business in any way they want. What they cannot do is use the Apple trademark to do it," Apple Corps counsel Geoffrey Vos said in his opening statement.

Vos argued that the Apple Computer logo is "intimately associated with the process" of buying a song from the iTunes Music Store.

He also played a TV ad featuring British band Coldplay, which prominently displayed the logo.

Apple Corps is seeking a judgement of liability and an injunction against Apple Computer. If successful, a subsequent trial will assess damages.

A settlement in 1991 resulted in a $26m payment by Apple Computer and an agreement to limit the use of its Apple trademark in the music business.

The implications of that deal are now in dispute. Apple Computer said in a statement before the trial: "Unfortunately, Apple [Computer] and Apple Corps now have differing interpretations of this agreement and will need to ask a court to resolve this dispute."

Apple Computer has become a huge force in the music industry, selling almost 14 million iPods and over one billion songs from the iTunes Music Store.

Apple Corps, meanwhile, has refused to license any Beatles recordings for sale through online music services. The hearing continues.