Apple is set to square off against the Beatles’ own Apple Corps in London court this week. Apple Corps claims that Apple’s iTunes Music Store software violates the terms of a 1991 agreement between the two companies.
Apple, of course, makes computers, iPods and software, while Apple Corps is the licensing agent for the Beatles. And they’ve squared off in court several times over the years. In the 1980s, Apple Corps sued Apple Computer over trademark infringement involving Apple Computer’s logo. Apple Corps accepted a small settlement and both agreed that Apple Computer would steer clear of the music business.
In 1989, Apple Corps again sued Apple Computer, claiming that the company had violated the terms of their earlier agreement after it incorporated MIDI control software in its operating system. This time the 1991 settlement in that case cost Apple $26 million and required them to agree they wouldn’t physically distribute music on formats like cassettes, vinyl records or CDs.
The iTunes Music Store has netted Apple Computer positive revenue and has also helped to drive sales of its iPod music players. The company’s sold more than one billion songs since the service first went online and now operates iTunes Music Store services in dozens of countries. That’s enough for Apple Corps to again claim that Apple has broken its agreement.
Apple Computer is expected to counter that it’s not in violation of its 1991 agreement with Apple Corps, since the iTunes Music Store is ultimately a data transfer system, not a physical method of distributing music.
The case goes before Mr. Justice Mann of London’s High Court on Wednesday.