The struggle between Apple Computer and The Beatles over use of the word 'apple' appears unlikely to be settled out of court.

The Beatles' company Apple Corps, which is owned by Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and the estate of George Harrison, has filed suit against Apple Computer.

The latter company is accused of infringing an historic agreement between the companies that the computer maker would not utilize the word Apple or apple logo in conjunction with activity within the music business. Apple Computer has now launched the iTunes Music Store and iPod MP3 player.

A statement from Apple Computer's VP worldwide communications Katie Cotton sets the scene for a legal battle: "Over a decade ago, Apple signed an agreement with Apple Corps, a business controlled by the Beatles and their heirs, which specified the rights each company would have to use the Apple trademark. Unfortunately, Apple and Apple Corps now have differing interpretations of this agreement and will need to ask a court to resolve this dispute," Cotton said.

Apple Corps also issued a statement through the Press Association: "Specifically, the complaint is made over the use by Apple Computer of the word "Apple" and apple logos in conjunction with its new application for downloading pre-recorded music from the Internet," said spokesman Geoff Baker.

Baker – who also represents former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney – told Macworld: "We will issue no comment beyond the statement while the case is going through the courts."

Music industry insiders have told Macworld that Sir Paul McCartney has become more reclusive over the past two years: "He's kind of locked himself into a cocoon," they said.

The legal tussle has sparked a lively debate on Macworld Online's Forum.