Apple dispute heads to final arguments

LONDON — Both sides in the Apple Corps v. Apple Computer trademark dispute trial are prepping closing arguments after the final witnesses finished their testimony Monday.

The day’s evidence in the High Court consisted mostly of technical discussions of what Apple’s iTunes Music Store is capable of, how music files are encoded and protected and the effect this process has on the quality of music files.

Lawyers for Apple Corps, the Beatles’ record label, spent proceedings trying to establish that the computer company alters the music files when it processes them, but those claims were strongly refuted by the defendants.

Jim Hoffman, founder and CEO of technology company Woodstock Services, stated his opinion that the AAC 128-bit-rate format in which iTunes Music Store delivers music files to the consumer provides less than CD-quality sound, and he contended that the computer company’s encryption technology may lead to degradation in the quality of music files. “It’s not significantly inferior to CD, but it’s not as good as CD,” said Hoffman.

ITunes VP Eddie Cue told the court that as of last week there were 4.5 million tracks available for download via the musicstore. Asked to describe Apple’s involvement in music, Cue commented, “We try to make the best hardware, the best jukebox software and the best musicstore.”

Cross examined by Apple Corps attorney Geoffrey Vos, Cue denied that Apple staff listened to all the music submitted to iTunes through the service’s Music Marketing application scheme. Cue said only record labels could apply for the scheme but that individual artists could apply if they owned their own copyright and had a business license. Informed by Judge Justice Mann that people in the U.K. could go into business without a license, Cue admitted he was unsure how this would affect such Music Marketing scheme applicants.

Cue also admitted that there would be no problem in removing the Apple logo from the iTunes Music Store screen but stressed the company keeps the trademark in place to inform users that iTunes is an Apple Computer application.

The man largely credited with developing iTunes and the iTunes Music Store, Jeffrey Robbin, testified that the musicstore has three essential components — the iTunes software, the iTunes server and the content that the service receives from the record labels.

He explained that rival musicstores could also sell music files in the same AAC 128 format the iTunes does but said they would not sell them with the FairPlay encryption wrapper, which effectively protects the song from being copied on a large-scale basis. He confessed that there would be a loss of sound quality if a song was copied from iTunes to CD and then ripped back to a computer but said that loss would not be significant.

The trial will resume on Wednesday with closing submissions by both parties.

Apple Corps is seeking an injunction to force Apple Computers to remove its trademark Apple logo from the iTunes Music Store and all related marketing and promotional material. Apple Computer maintains that such a move is unnecessary as the use of the logo is within its fields of use given that it is employed to signify the origin of the iTunes service rather than the music sold through the service.

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