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Legal Judgment Issued in Apple v Apple Case

A judge in London has ruled that U.S.-based Apple Computer was within its rights to use its familiar apple logo on its iTunes on-line Music Store. As VOA's Mil Arcega reports, the ruling goes against Apple Corps Limited, the legendary record company started by one of the world's most famous musical groups.

Apple Corps was launched by the Beatles in 1968 and is still owned by surviving band members, Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr; and the widows of George Harrison and John Lennon.

In 1991 the U.S. computer firm Apple, which had been using an apple logo since 1976, agreed to pay Apple Corps 26 and a half million dollars, and to stop marketing music, in a trademark sharing agreement on the logos.

Ray McDonald, who covers the music industry for VOA, says lawyers for the Beatles sought to prove that Apple Computer, which has sold at least 42 million iPod players and has about half the legal market for music downloads, has been marketing music over iTunes, and not simply distributing it as the U.S. firm had claimed. But a judge found otherwise.

Mr. McDonald says that the dispute was more of a breakdown in contract understanding. "Essentially this fight was over the contract, drawn up in 1991, and also over a symbol, the apple. The judge in London ruled that Apple Computer was not violating the terms of the agreement because this applied to their store - their business end - and not to their use of the music."

As for the dispute over the two logos, Apple Corps claimed merely to be protecting its brand identity and trademark interests.

Apple Corps' logo realistically depicts a green apple, while Apple Computer's logo shows a drawing of an apple with a bite taken out.

McDonald explains each position. “Apple Computer said, 'Look, these are two very very different representations of an apple, customers are not stupid, they know which one is ours and they know which one is yours, and they are not going to get them mixed up."

While the court agreed, Apple Corps lawyer Nicholas Valner expressed disappointment with the judge's decision. "We consider he has reached the wrong conclusion. We felt that during the course of the trial we clearly demonstrated just how extensively Apple Computer had broken the agreement."

Apple Corps -- which could be ordered to pay Apple Computer's court costs -- has said it will appeal the ruling.