Beatles plan Apple appeal

Fab Four's record label to take on court ruling

The long and winding road to get Beatles music available online is about to get a bit longer.

The head of the Beatles’ record company, Apple Corps, said the company would appeal Judge Edward Mann’s ruling Monday that the use of Apple Computer’s logo on its iTunes music store does not infringe on the Beatles’ trademark.

“We have been advised by our legal team that we have every prospect of reversing this decision on appeal,” said Apple Corps managing director Neil Aspinall. “With great respect to the trial judge, we consider he has reached the wrong conclusion.”

Mann issued a 38-page judgment Monday backing the technology company’s contention that it had not breached its trademark agreement with the Fab Four. Experts consider the ruling a strict conservative interpretation of U.K. trademark law.

Mann ruled that Apple Computer used the logo to promote its online shop and not the music itself, which did not violate the terms of a 1991 agreement between the Apple companies. The judge further said iTunes has fair rights to the apple logo and is a supplier, which does not encroach upon the companies’ previous agreement.

The 1991 agreement, part of a $26 million, out-of-court settlement from Apple Computer, specified trademark rights for each company. Apple Corps, which is owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the estates of George Harrison and John Lennon, was granted rights in musical contexts; Apple Computers was given reign over software endeavors.

That agreement, however, was drawn up 10 years before the introduction of the iPod and mostly concerned CDs and cassettes.

When the decision was delivered Monday morning, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs immediately saw a door opening for the two Apples to work together in getting Beatles recordings available for digital downloads.

“We are glad to put this disagreement behind us,” Jobs said. “We have always loved the Beatles and hopefully we can now work together to get them on the iTunes Music Store.”

During the trial, Aspinall revealed that the Beatles’ singles and albums are being digitally remastered in preparation for release as downloads. An appeal of Monday’s decision, however, may delay the availability of the Beatles’ catalog as digital downloads unless Apple Corps chooses to circumvent the world’s largest supplier of digital downloads. Apple’s iTunes controls about 80% of the digital sales market.

In addition, Apple Corps faces at least a £3 million ($5.6 million) bill for legal costs — $3.43 million for Apple Computers and $1.85 million for Apple Corps. Mann said that total will “significantly increase” once trial costs are added.

(Phil Gallo in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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