Will Apple Be Forced to Use a New iTunes Logo?

by Janet Meyer May 02, 2006

MacWorld Daily News reports the ruling in the Apple versus Apple case is expected to be delivered on the morning of Monday, May 8. At that time Apple Computer will learn whether or not it will be barred from using the Apple logo with iTunes.

If the injunction is granted, it will be interesting to see the reaction. Apple Corps isn’t going to be content with a new logo from Apple Computers. One way or another there will be dollars attached to this.

This is not the first time that Apple Records has sued Apple Computers. Legalzoom.com gives a short history of prior lawsuits. According to this site, Apple Records has long been using the Granny Smith Apple to market the Beatles music. In 1978 Apple Records (Apple Corps) sued Apple Computer because they also used a green apple. Three years later Apple Computer paid $80,000 to Apple Corps. There was also an agreement limiting Apple Computer’s involvement in the music business.

Apple Corps sued and won again in 1991. This time Apple Computer was ruled to have violated the terms of the 1981 agreement by adding sound to computers. Apple Computer got hit for $26.5 million. The new agreement, according to legalzoom.com, was that Apple Computer could be involved in digital music but must stay out of physical means of distribution, such as CDs. The Motley Fool quotes the settlement agreement as saying that Apple Computer is allowed to use the Apple symbol on goods or services that are used to run or play creative works “whose principal content is music.”

To nobody’s real surprise, Apple Corps is back. The company contends that Apple has violated the 1991 agreement by using the Apple logo while selling music downloads. Apple Computer counters that iTunes is a data transfer service, which is allowed in the agreement. The purpose of trademark laws, however, is to protect consumers from confusion. If Apple Corps can make a case that using the Granny Smith Apple confuses the average user, it could win yet another case against Apple Computer.

When I first read of this case, I assumed it was tied into the record-breaking downloads from iTunes, and in a way it might be. While at first glance it appears to be about money won in a lawsuit, there might be another financial reason for bringing this particular lawsuit at this particular time.

Starpulse News Blog has an interesting article stating that Apple Corps is planning to offer Beatles music for digital download. Neil Aspinall of Apple Corps confirmed this during the Apple Corps versus Apple Computer trial. He said that they are remastering old Beatles songs and preparing digital booklets in preparation for offering digital downloads.

The plot gets even more interesting. Several sources, including Motley Fool, think that Apple Corps wants it’s own online store. It makes sense if they think they can make more money this way than from distribution through iTunes or other digital services. In fact, in the past they tried to work with digital downloading, but a deal with other services never came through.

Maybe Apple Corps was just asking for too much money. A 2004 article at CNet News says they were asking as much as $15 million for downloading rights that would last six months.

iTunes doesn’t make much per download. It’s profit lies in the sales of iPods. I can’t speak for other companies that Apple Corps tried to deal with, but for the few cents each song made by iTunes, there would have to be an awful lot of downloading of Beatle’s songs in six months to break even.

There is one problem with Apple Corps creating its own download site: Apple Records has signed a non-compete with Apple Computer. This lawsuit could be a good way to invalidate that agreement.

What do you think? Who has the stronger grounds to win this lawsuit? If Apple Corps wins, do you think they are looking for immediate cash, or instead looking for a more profitable way to promote their music?

Maybe they have something else in mind altogether. I guess we’ll know more on May 8. Stay tuned.


  • Personally I think Apple Corp needs a wake up call.
      I feel that they are going overboard with this law suit and need a good swift kick in the a$$. Contract or no contract.
      When I see a Granny Smith apple I think of a few things, and the Beetles and/or Apple Records is not one of them. Maybe fresh fruit or apple pie. The only people being confused with this trademark are the ones stuck in the past and obcessed and/or brain washed with the great Beetles and/or Apple Records.
      I have never been a big fan of the Beetles and probally never will be. It puzzles me how four young boys (in the days of past) had so much of an impact and creativity with music and society, yet they try and beat down a company doing the same thing in a different arena. I know its a money/competion battle here, but guess what, its over, the Beetles no longer produce new music. Therefore, where is the competition?
      Maybe the old New York Yankees should sue the players and coaches that follow for not living up to the name and the team logo.
      I guess this proves one fact…........money makes greed.
      And incidentally, I thought Michael Jackson had bought all rights to the Beetles songs? Why would they remaster something they don’t own?

    Macster2 had this to say on May 02, 2006 Posts: 40
  • “And incidentally, I thought Michael Jackson had bought all rights to the Beetles songs? Why would they remaster something they don’t own?”

    Michael Jackson bought most of their catalog (which has since been combined with a large catalog of SONY to become Sony/ATV, owners of 251 Beatles songs and the catalog of at least a dozen other artists that include Bob Dylan, Elvis, and others).  Apple Corps. owns the actual recordings, so they can remaster those and sell them online. Of course, any online store will generate millions for Sony/ATV since they own the publishing rights.

    breuklen had this to say on May 02, 2006 Posts: 31
  • “That’s obvious! The Beatles have an important place in music history that is hard to appreciate if you weren’t there before their arrival. It’s like saying “What’s so special about Henry Ford’s Model T? It’s just old crap” when there were no cars for the mass market before it came along, just horse and buggy. “
    You know, I look back at my posts sometimes and see how shallow I may have been in words that I had written. Obviously I completely blew off the fact that music was invented by the Beetles.
      MacGlee, music has been around for thousands of years and Rock n Roll was being made before the Beetles came along, would it be what it is today if they didn’t exist, YES, it was a trend just as other genre of music, so lets not compare them to someone who pioneered (not actually so) the first automobile. My point is my opinion and I don’t discriminate against anyone for liking the Beetles so don’t belittle me for not.
      I don’t see the Granny Smith apple having a Beetles patent on it. Maybe the apple farmers who first started growing/marketing that apple should sue both parties wether it be a symbol for food or music .
      I feel as you do, I think its a stupid lawsuit. What even kills me more is the publicity it gets.
      Breuklen, thanks for the education, that is something I did not know and appreciate the info. (seriously, I’m not being sarcastic) So even if they do reproduce them they will have to distribute royalties to others?  I bet they just love that. I know I do.

    Macster2 had this to say on May 02, 2006 Posts: 40
  • Breuklen, are you sure about Apple Corps. owning the Beatle recordings? I always thought that EMI/Capitol Records actually owns the Beatles’ master recordings. Apple Corps. according to Wikipedia “The company exists today, mostly performing as the licensing agent for Beatles-related products, and supervising reissues of Apple Records, plus new issues of Beatles recordings and related media.” The surviving Beatles have a strong hand in how their recordings are re-issued: they at least have some artistic input in the re-mastering of their music. I checked a couple other sources, but couldn’t find out definitely who owns the master recordings. Anyone else with more info on this topic?

    Macster2, when Michael Jackson bought the publishing rights of the Beatles catalog, he was making more off Beatles music than the Beatles themselves. Almost all music artists of the 60’s got screwed by their record companies. Just think about Motown.

    As a huge Beatles fan, an avid Mac and iPod user, I’m very interested how this turns out on May 8. I won’t affect me too much since I have all the Beatle CD’s anyway, and have their entire catalog on my iPod.

    Julius had this to say on May 03, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Julius, I’m not 100% sure about the ownership of the masters, but to the best of knowledge, Beatles Corps. does own them outright; EMI was the temporary copyright holder when the recordings were originally released. I could be wrong, especially since they already allowed their publishing rights to get away. Maybe EMI was smart enough to keep the masters.

    I wouldn’t cry for the Motown artists because Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson wrote the vast majority of the hits for the label during its greatest period. The label also gave wonderful opportunities for some of the greatest musicians in Pop history. Of course, I’m not talking about the studio bands (most notbably the Funk Brothers), because they were dropped like hot cakes when the company moved to the West Coast.

    No matter what happens May 8th, I think there will still be some questions and fighting between the two entities.

    breuklen had this to say on May 03, 2006 Posts: 31
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