Apple settles with Apple in long-running trademark battle

The Beatles’ record label, Apple Corps, has dropped its appeal against a decision taken in its High Court trademark dispute with Apple Inc.

Under a new agreement between the two parties replacing one struck in 1991, Apple Inc. will own all of the trademarks related to the word “Apple” and licence certain of these trademarks back Apple Corps for their continued use.

The ongoing trademark dispute will end, with each party bearing its own legal costs. Apple Inc. will continue using its name and logos on iTunes. The terms of settlement are confidential.

As first reported by The Lawyer (8 May 2006), Apple Inc won its High Court trademark battle against Apple Corps when Mr Justice Mann ruled it had not breached its 15-year-old agreement with the record company.

Mann concluded that because Apple Inc only uses the Apple trademark in association with the online store, not the music it sells, consumers were unlikely to confuse Apple Inc with the record label.

Eversheds partner Nick Valner acted for Apple Corps, and instructed Geoffrey Vos QC of 3 Stone Buildings and 8 New Square’s Daniel Alexander QC.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer dispute resolution partner Ian Terry represented Apple Inc, and instructed Lord Grabiner QC of One Essex Court.

Eversheds and Terry were prohibited from commenting on the recent settlement.

The 2006 battle was the third time the two parties had clashed over the Apple trademark. In 1981, they reached an $80,000 (£46,000) settlement, with one of the conditions being that Apple stay away from music.

This condition forced Apple Inc to pay out $26.5m (£15.2m) in 1991. In 2003 Apple Corps sued the computer manufacturer for releasing its iTunes music service.