The surviving Beatles are suing Apple Computer over that company's entry into the digital-music industry – specifically the iTunes Music Store and iPod.

Apple Corps, the band’s company, has filed suit (using legal firm, Eversheds) in London's High Court of Justice, reports Fox News.

The litigation centres on a deal made between Apple Corps and Apple Computer in 1990. In 1989, Apple was sued by the fab-four's Apple Corp record label for trademark infringement. The companies settled out of court in 1990, with Apple Computer paying $26.4 million to Apple Corps.

Under the agreement, Apple Computer agreed not to use its name and logo in connection with computer products used in the recording or reproduction of music, and Apple Corps agreed not to oppose Apple's trademark registrations for computer equipment.

Apple Computer was sued once again when it began to integrate technology to let Mac users attach external speakers to their computer. Apple Corps won that case, and has taken a combined $50 million in reparation from Apple Computer in the two suits combined.

Legend has it that the old Apple alert sound Sosumi was a barbed nod to the deal, when Apple bumped up the sound capabilities of the Mac.


Apple Corps, run on behalf of the directors by former Beatles road manager Neil Aspinall, was named as the firm with the fastest-growing profit in 2003 by the Sunday Times. It had seen a 194 per cent rise in profits since releasing a compilation album of 27 Beatles hits in 2000; Apple Corps profits have doubled each year, reaching £18.2 million in 2002.

On the case, Fox reports an Apple Corps legal insider who said: "When it first happened with the iPod, we said, "What could they be thinking?". Posters announcing the iPod represented the product as coming from AppleMusic. "They knew we had the agreement, and that we'd won a lot of money from them already."

In an early response, Apple has changed the tab on its Web site: where this once read 'Music', it now reads 'iTunes'.

It's interesting to note the raison d'etre behind the formation of Apple Corps. Former Beatles PR manager Derek Taylor once said: "Apple was set up purely and simply as a tax-saving project."

Speaking at another time, Beatle John Lennon once said: "The aim of the company isn't really a stack of gold teeth in the bank. We've done that bit. It's more of a trick to see if we can actually get artistic freedom within a business structure; to see if we can create nice things and sell them without charging three times our cost."

Apple, Apple Corps, Eversheds, Parlophone and the EMI Group have so far declined to comment on the case.

Comment on this story.