Apple and Beatles Ink Trademark Agreement

Cupertino’s Apple, Inc. and The Beatles’ Apple Corps have signed a new trademark agreement which puts decades of trademark disputes concerning the Apple name and logos behind them. Under the new agreement, Apple Inc. will own all of the trademarks related to “Apple,” and will license some of the trademarks back to Apple Corps, for their continued use.

“We love the Beatles, and it has been painful being at odds with them over these trademarks,” said Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, in a statement. “It feels great to resolve this in a positive manner, and in a way that should remove the potential of further disagreements in the future.”

The agreement replaces the previous 1991 trademark sharing agreement, the terms of which led Apple Corps to sue (then) Apple Computer over its iTunes digital music service. The 1991 agreement was originally intended to let the companies share the trademarks as long as they didn’t do business in the same spheres—basically, Apple Computer was to stick to computers, while Apple Corps would stick to music. But as the Macintosh added music playback capabilities and Apple entered the digital music market with iTunes, Apple Corps felt their turf was being stepped on, and sued. Speculation on the suit was that Apple Computer would have to hand Apple Corps (owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Star, Yoko Ono, and the estate of George Harrison) a record-setting infringement settlement…but instead, last year, Apple Computer won the trademark dispute, owing to short-sighted terms in the original agreement which prohibited Apple from distributing music on physical media, but left data transmission services in the clear.

“It is great to put this dispute behind us and move on,” said Neil Aspinall, Apple Corps’ manager. “The years ahead are going to be very exciting times for us. We wish Apple Inc. every success and look forward to many years of peaceful co-operation with them.”

One of the interesting offshoots of the trademark trial was the revelation that Apple Corps was making preparations to take the Beatles’ music online—the Beatles’ catalogs is one of the major notable holdouts from the digital music market. Although there’s no work on how Apple Corps wants to take the Fab Four digital, resolving the Apple vs. Apple trademark disputes clears one very major hurdle between the Beatles and iTunes.

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