Trademark battle comes to an end

After nearly two decades of discord, the Beatles and Apple computers are singing the same song: “We Can Work It Out.”

Apple Corps, the record company the Beatles founded in 1968, and Apple, the Cupertino computer company, reached an accord that gives the latter ownership of the name and the apple logo.

Apple will license certain trademarks back to Apple Corps. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Deal naturally opens the door to make Beatles music — the holy grail of pop — available via Apple’s online iTunes store. While members of the Beatles have OK’d the sale of solo work, the Beatles catalog has remained offline.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement, “It has been painful being at odds with (the Beatles) over these trademarks.” The resolution, he said, “should remove the potential of further disagreements.”

Jobs had stirred the pot regarding a resolution to the conflict when he used the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album cover and played “Lovely Rita” during the launch of the iPhone.

Now, Beatles fans worldwide may well read further into Jobs statement “Let the downloading begin.”

But the Fab Four decisionmakers — Paul McCartney; Ringo Starr; Yoko Ono, the widow of John Lennon; and the estate of George Harrison — have been notoriously gun-shy about embracing new technology.

When compact discs were introduced to replace vinyl records, the Beatles were slow to come to the table. EMI, which releases the Beatles recordings, issued the British editions of the albums in blocks beginning in 1987, standardizing the catalog. In 2004, Capitol issued the first four American releases as a box set; last year, it issued the second block of four.

Since the band’s breakup in 1970, there have been only about 20 Beatles releases of their recordings from the 1960s; by contrast, RCA and BMG have released more than 200 Elvis Presley packages since his death in 1977.

Evidence of the Beatles’ extraordinary power at retail: In 2000, the hits compilation ‘Beatles 1″ performed so well that it was credited with salvaging the year from disaster.

Agreement replaces a 1991 pact between the two companies and puts an end to the trademark lawsuit Apple Corps filed against Apple in 2003 in London.

The two have had a tenuous relationship over the use of the apple logo in relationship to music commerce.

Apple Corps filed the suit, claiming the Apple iTunes store violated the 1991 deal. A court in London ruled in favor of Apple in May, and Apple Corps’ appeal was scheduled to be heard later this month.

During the trial, Apple Corps manager Neil Aspinall disclosed that the catalog was being remastered.

In a statement issued Monday, he said, “The years ahead are going to be very exciting times for us. We … look forward to many years of peaceful cooperation with (Apple).”

Apple’s stock price closed Monday at $83.80, down 81¢.

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