Apple cart upset

Aspinall says Apple Corps. planning to digitize Beatles catalog

Apple Computer’s cross examination of Apple Corps.’ main witness, managing director Neil Aspinall, ran into problems Friday when it emerged that he is, in his own words, “computer illiterate.”

Aspinall told the High Court that he is clueless about software and hardware and that even his business emails are written by someone else on his behalf.

Aspinall was giving evidence on the third day of the trial against the computer giant, which The Beatles’ record company claims has been breaching a trademark agreement signed by the two parties in 1991 not to use its trademark apple in connection with selling music. Apple Corps. says the use of the Apple logo on the iTunes Music Store service infringes this agreement.

Apple Computer’s defense centers around its claim that the Apple logo on the music store Web site simply tells the user that Apple powers the software to operate the iTunes service.

Under cross examination by Anthony Grabiner, Aspinall confessed he had never visited iTunes of the music store. “I’m not interested in computers,” said Aspinall.

However, before the release of the Beatles 1 album, Aspinall visited the computer company’s founder Steve Jobs to get advice on creating a Web site to promote the album. Nothing came of that meeting, said Aspinall, who described his relationship with Jobs as very good.

Aspinall also revealed that Apple Corps. is gearing up toward releasing The Beatles repertoire on the Internet — something they have so far refused to make agreements on.

“We know we’ve got to go into the downloading business at some point, it’s just a question of when and how we do it,” he revealed. “We’re remastering The Beatles catalog at the moment and it’s likely we’ll do it so we can get the double publicity of new masters and downloading at the same time.”

Earlier in proceedings, Grabiner had demonstrated, via computer screens around the court, such services as Real Player, MSN Music and the iTunes Music Store using both Apple hardware and a PC.

The purpose of this display, he explained, was to show that these rival services also employed the use of their logos and trademarks on the sites, but that could not be construed to mean that they owned the content of the downloads they are selling.

“The marks are used in relation to the download and not the content ownership,” said Grabiner.

The trial continues on Monday.