Beatles suck


Not even wearing my partisan Mac-user hat, I think this lawsuit stinks. Are the Beatles really so desperate and money-grubbing as to sue Apple Computer for deigning to be involved in digital music? The iTunes store doesn't even sell Beatles music. Apple ought to release a mashup version of “All You Need is Lawyers” using Warren Zevon and John Lennon's voice, available as the free Tuesday download. - Apple, Beatles Face Off Over iTunes Music Store
Apple Corps Ltd., the Beatles' record company and guardian of the band's musical heritage and business interests, is suing Apple Computer Inc., claiming the company violated a 1991 agreement by entering the music business with its iTunes online music store.

The case will be heard by Judge Martin Mann, who said during pretrial hearings that he was the owner of an iPod digital music player, which is used with the iTunes music store.

At issue is a 1991 pact that ended a long-running trademark fight between the two Apples in which each agreed not to tread on the other's toes by entering into a “field of use'' agreement over the trademark.

London-based Apple Corps said in a statement that ”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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This dispute has been running for decades now. To be fair to the record label they were set up nine years before the computer company. Agreements are often made then broken in this dispute as the computer company changes it's business and as sound technologies change. The root of the issue is that Apple Corps doesn't trust Apple Inc to stick to any agreements any more and so resists any change litigiously.

My understanding is that Apple Records thinks people will confuse Apple Computers with Apple Records. This I don't understand. Mac computers have always had sound capability - they were one of the earliest (if not the earliest) to have sound cards included as standard, plenty of music was created with Pro Tools on a Mac, etc. Apple Records, to my mind, wants Apple Computer to avoid anything to do with sound, and this is ludicrous.

a history lesson from MWJ in 2003 (a newslist I subscribe to)
In the early 1980s, Apple Corps approached Apple Computer over trademark issues. Trademarks are specific to an industry: Apple Corps can't go after farmers who grow apples or, for example, "Apple Dry Cleaners," because those are completely separate industries from music and recording....

However, since the early Apple II+ computers were already playing primitive music through a speaker, Apple Corps sensed an overlap. Apple Corps contacted Apple Computer with threats of massive trademark problems; according to some sources, those may have included threats of losing the "Apple" trademark throughout Europe, if not the world. That's why more than two decades ago, Steve Jobs, as co-founder and a senior executive, signed a trademark agreement with Apple Corps on behalf of Apple Computer. It promised that Apple Corps would not contest Apple Computer's trademark rights to the name "Apple" for computers, but in return, Apple Computer promised not to enter the music business in any form.

Fast-forward about eight years. Macintosh computers made all kinds of sounds, and the Apple IIgs computer featured a complete synthesizer subsystem by Ensoniq (the "s" in "IIgs" stood for "sound"). Apple Corps came calling again, and according to sources close to the case, demanded an additional license fee from Apple Computer of about US$3,000,000. ... Apple Corps, staffed by some of the sharpest lawyers in the world (you don't get to work for The Beatles by sleeping through law school), sued Apple Computer in London for trademark infringement, breach of contract, and other impertinences. Apple Corps' case was all but won the moment it was filed, for the Corps had this document signed by Apple Computer's co-founder promising the company would not make the kinds of products it was now making.

... The System 7 sound that had been named "Xylophone" during development was renamed "Sosumi," pronounced "so sue me," though the responsible engineer insisted it was Japanese for "that which is not musical." ... In 1991, Apple Computer settled the lawsuit with Apple Corps for a huge sum: Fox News reports it as US$26,000,000.... Apple Computer could have avoided the entire problem by paying the requested US$3,000,000 fee and sticking to its signed agreement, so it was an expensive lesson for the computer company.

The terms of the settlement were never disclosed, but sources close to Apple Computer at the time said the agreement allows the computer company to continue making products that combine musical aspects with technology, but not to be a music publisher or record label. The proof would seem to be in history: Apple Computer did not stop making any of the products that triggered Apple Corps' initial complaint, such as a MIDI interface or system software to help synthesize music.

In fact, during the 1990s, the Macintosh OS grew even more musical with the addition of QuickTime Musical Instruments, MIDI tracks, improved audio circuitry, and more. ...Apple Corps confirmed that it had initiated action against Apple back in July, without anyone figuring it out for two months. The Corps is seeking an injunction to shut down the iTunes Music Store, plus unspecified penalties. That's when the mainstream press picked it up, including Reuters. According to that report, Apple Corps "did not elaborate on the penalties it is seeking, but said the computer maker violated a 1991 agreement specifying that it could use the Apple trademark for computer products only."

Apple Computer's brief statement to the press said, "Over a decade ago, Apple signed an agreement with Apple Corps, a business controlled by the Beatles and their heirs, which specified the rights each company would have to use the 'Apple' trademark. Unfortunately, Apple and Apple Corps now have differing interpretations of this agreement and will need to ask a court to resolve this dispute." a narrative that allows Apple Computer to make virtually any product it wants, as long as it does not become a music publisher or record label. Apple Computer would say that the iTunes Music Store doesn't break those rules, because the iTunes Music Store does not publish any music: it only resells music from existing record labels. Apple Corps might disagree, and the domain name "" as an alias for the iTunes page was certainly close to the boundaries of a purely music-sales use of the "Apple" trademark.
Without more specifics, we can only guess that once again, Apple Corps came back for more licensing fees based on the iTunes Music Store, and that Apple Computer believes the existing agreement permits these uses. (It would also explain why it's called the "iTunes Music Store" instead of, for example, the "Apple Record Store," as that would clearly infringe on the
"Apple Records" trademark.) Apple Computer seems to have learned its lesson, and it's hard to believe the company would refuse Apple Corps' legal eagles unless Apple Computer was sure the 1991 agreement permitted its actions. If Apple Corps disagrees, then just as Apple Computer says, a court will have to resolve the dispute.

Questioned by reporters after his speech at Apple Expo Paris,
Steve Jobs said virtually the same thing. "Apple Corporation and Apple [Computer] signed a legal agreement more than a decade ago. I wasn't there, and it says what each company can do with their trademark. I inherited that, and right now there's a disagreement about this. It's a trademark dispute... We might have to get a judge to decide on it." Jobs also said that the difficulty of negotiating online music rights in Europe meant that the iTunes Music Store would not debut on that continent until sometime in 2004. Although some writers have tried to link that to the Apple Corps situation, there is no evidence of any link at this time.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on March 28, 2006 9:32 AM.

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