Beatles label and French Govt attack Apple iTunes

Apple Computer is facing a European IP war on two fronts against its profitable iTunes music service.

This week the company begins its High Court trademark defence against Beatles record label Apple Corps just as the French Government approved a law that could tear apart its profitable iTunes business model.

The French law will force Apple to remove the barriers on iTunes music files that prevent customers from playing the files on non-Apple devices.

An Apple spokesperson said the law would result in “state-sponsored piracy” and could hurt legal music sales.

Apple’s High Court appearance on 27 March will be its third with Apple Corps in a quarrel that began in 1978 when the record label first sued Apple for trademark infringement.

The parties reached an $80,000 (£46,000) settlement in 1981, with one of the conditions being that Apple stay away from music. This condition forced Apple to pay out $26.5m (£15.2m) in 1991 after adding sound to its computers and in 2003 Apple Corps sued the computer manufacturer for releasing its iTunes music service.

Eversheds partner Nick Valner is acting for Apple Corps and has instructed Geoffrey Vos QC of 3 Stone Buildings and 8 New Square’s Daniel Alexander QC. Ian Terry, dispute resolution partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, represents Apple and has instructed Lord Grabiner QC of One Essex Court.