Two big Apples will enter London's High Court today – Apple Computer and The Beatles holding company Apple Corps will contest the latest lawsuit over use of the Apple trademark.
Representatives for the surviving former lovable moptops will argue that by dragging the music industry into the 21st century with its iTunes Music Store, Apple Computer is breaching an agreement that forbade it using the trademark for music-related works.
Apple was allowed to employ the trademark in the tech sector under a deal last agreed in 1991. The latest litigation began on July 4 2003.
Apple added some audio and music functionality to its products in 1989 and was promptly sued by the fab-four's Apple Corps record label for trademark infringement. After a long 100 days in court, the companies settled in October 1991, with Apple Computer paying $26.5 million to Apple Corps and inking a new deal.
Apple Computer agreed it could use the Apple logo for computers, data processing and telecommunications. Apple Corp retained it for music.
Legend has it that the old Apple alert sound Sosumi ("So sue me") was a barbed nod to the deal, when Apple bumped-up the sound capabilities of the Mac.
This week's hearing – which is expected to last two or three days – will decide whether the case should be heard in London, which Apple Corps prefers, or California, where Apple Computer would like to take the case to trial.
Apple Computer filed a motion in the High Court on October 13 2003 that challenged jurisdiction of the case in the UK. The company preceeded that by filing against Apple Corps – requesting a "declaratory judgement that it had not breached the 1991 agreement" in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.
Bloomberg News reports that Lord Grabiner QC and Daniel Toledano are acting for Apple Computer, while Geoffrey Vos QC and Daniel Alexander QC are representing the Beatles.
Speaking with The Independent in September 2003, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said: "Apple Corporation and Apple signed a legal agreement more than a decade ago". Jobs was not at Apple Computer at that time: "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."
Speaking to The Times, Jobs also discussed the case: "It's really stupid," he says. "We can't reach an agreement, but the courts could drag on for a few years."
Hearings in the US courts regarding this matter are also expected this month.