- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

LONDON — Two legendary companies in the music industry are to meet today in a London courtroom to fight it out over what might be the world’s most recognizable logo: A simple piece of fruit.

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.

Apple Computer said that “unfortunately, Apple and Apple Corps now have differing interpretations of this agreement and will need to ask a court to resolve this dispute.”

Apple Corps — founded in 1968 and owned by surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the widow of John Lennon and the estate of George Harrison — is seeking both an injunction to enforce the 1991 agreement and monetary damages for the purported contract breach.

The computer company’s logo is a cartoonish apple with a neat bite out of its side; the record company is represented by a perfect, shiny, green Granny Smith apple.

Apple Computer had asked to have the case heard in California, where it is based, but Judge Mann rejected that application in 2004 and ordered the case be heard at the stately Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Computer was formed in 1976, when two college dropouts — Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak — filed partnership papers on April Fools’ Day. Their goal was to build and sell personal computers, and their first product was a build-it-yourself computer kit. In 1984, the Apple Macintosh was introduced. Their ubiquitous iPods first came out in October 2001.

The iTunes music store first opened for business in the United States in April 2003; it is now available across Europe, and in Australia, Japan and Canada. About 3 million songs are downloaded every day from the service. In the United States, a song costs 99 cents; in Britain, each song fetches $1.38.

Not available on the service are Beatles’ songs, which haven’t been licensed for downloading.

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