The Apple Corps-versus-Apple case began yesterday in London's High Court with a typically British twist as Justice Edward Mann revealed himself an iPod owner.

Mann asked if he was disqualified from hearing the case because of his iPod ownership, to which Lord Grabiner QC, representing Apple, said: "I'm delighted to hear that – we would perhaps have sent you one for free if that would not have been improper," Bloomberg News reports.

Apple Corps, the company that looks after the interests of the surviving Beatles, is accusing Apple Computer of contravening an earlier deal that means the latter firm shouldn't get involved in music by launching its iPod and iTunes Music products.

Apple asserts that the Beatles – former champions of a new era of peace and understanding in the late 1960s – are: "Attempting to frustrate our position or business conduct or extract money from us because of the success and innovative qualities of our product."

Apple says it has not contravened the logo agreement because it has the right to use it for data transmission. A deal reached in 1991 said Apple Computer could use the Apple logo for computers, data processing and telecommunications, but Apple Corps could use it for music.

Grey area

The Independent reports that the 1991 deal created a legal grey area, as it did not take into account the implications of the move from "vinyl, cassettes and CDs to online music".

It adds: "Due to be introduced imminently in Britain, the iTunes service will charge customers 62p per song for downloading pre-recorded music onto its iPod digital music player."

Apple Corps maintains that the previous deal means it has the right to use the Apple logo in "anything related to music." This is despite that company's lack of any technology expertise or infrastructure.

Representatives for the Beatles Apple Corps will make their case today in this jurisdiction hearing. Apple Computer wants the case heard in the US, while Apple Corps wants it heard in the UK court. Both sides are thought to have spent £500,000 on bringing the case to the courts.

The Independent reports a UK patent lawyer, who observes: "The proceedings will be closely followed by record companies increasingly switching their investments to music downloads.

"If the judge rules against the Apple music label it could prompt a legal challenge to the online activities of other major labels".