The Big Apple(s)
  • TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 06, 2007

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Two of the world’s biggest apples – Apple Inc and Apple Corps – might stop taking bites out of each other. The two companies resolved a longstanding battle on Monday, agreeing to terms regarding the use of Apple Computer’s iconic name and fruit-shaped logo.

The Apple Corp record label – founded and maintained by the Beatles (or, in Harrison and Lennon’s case, their estates) – has waged courtroom battles with Apple Inc since 1978. The controversy began with the computer company’s logo, which looks strikingly similar to that of Apple Corp. After settling the initial courtroom case in 1978, Apple Inc agreed to never enter the music business.

Over the years, Apple took measured steps to increase the multimedia capabilities of its computers. Apple Corps sued successfully in 1989, following the introduction of MIDI and sound-recording capabilities on new Apple computers. A settlement was reached, and Apple Corps received $26.5 from Steve Jobs and company.

Predictably, iTunes has been a major source of contention. Apple Inc successfully warded off another lawsuit in 2003, when legal umpire Justice Mann ruled that iTunes did not breach the companies’ trademark agreement. But things seem to be different this week, with Apple Inc paying an estimate $50 million to $100 million to secure the rights to the Apple name. Could they be burying the hatchet? And could Steve Jobs be closer to securing the Beatles’ music for his iTunes store?

The Beatles' recording label, EMI, has long resisted the urge to put the band's albums up for digital download. Still, the groundwork has already been laid for a resolution, with Steve Jobs going so far as to include the Beatles' tunes in his keynote presentation for the iPhone.

If the band’s entire catalogue is released for download, the Beatles could top the charts again. In the UK, bookies have placed odds on the band’s predicted chart success. An unnamed music boss has told The Daily Mirror that "half a billion pounds" in song earnings "is not out of the question." And U.S. publications like Newsday have reported cautiously, noting that EMI has refused to comment.

Can Beatlemania happen in 2007? Apple Corps and Apple Computers would have to permanently make-up, but is that so hard? Everybody, repeat after the Fab Four: We can work it out. We can work it out. Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting...

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