Apple – the computer guys – are squaring off against Apple – the Beatles guys – in another round of legal squabbling. What’s in a name? Only a couple of $billion..

Our favorite computer company Apple finds itself embroiled in a little bit of a legal tussle with Apple Records – home of The Beatles music and record library. This isn’t the first time that the two Apples have duked it out – an earlier 1991 court battle saw a deal being hashed out – Apple would stick to things computing while Apple Records would continue as the record label logo that boasts ‘the Fab Four’.

Earlier agreements.

apple-computer-records-hybrid-logoApple Computer had also paid Apple Corps $26.5 million and agreed not to enter the music business. According to Geoffrey Vos, the record company’s QC, Apple Computer’s behavior as a “perversion of the agreement”. He told the court: “The agreement was meant to say: ‘We do music and you do computer delivery systems.’ Of course, that was before the development of the .mp3 file format, and the distribution system offered by the Internet.

The Apple iPod.

Vos also referred to statements by Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, when he introduced the iPod and iTunes in 2003. According to Vos:

“Mr Jobs told everybody they were looking for a consistent process in technology, software and music. That’s what he told the world, that’s what he was trying to achieve with this process.” he also said that Jobs had telephoned Apple Corps a month before the debut of iTunes, offering $1 million (£576,000) for the Apple Records trademark.

The case began at the Royal Courts of Justice in London last week with folks in attendance listening to the 1970s disco hit Le Freak as Justice Edward Mann (an admitted ipod user and iTune fan) heard Apple Records’ claim that Apple Computer had violated their earlier agreements by selling and distributing music through the iTunes online music service.

iTunes at the heart of it.

Ultimately, Mann will decide whether Apple is legally entitled to run the iTunes service which commands more than 70 per cent of the digital downloads in the U.S. and the U.K. The Beatles’ outfit is seeking the court’s intervention in stopping Apple Computer using “apple logos” and marks in its iTunes and damages on the basis of an examination of the U.S. company’s profits. Funny thing though – check Google for ‘Apple Records’ and you’ll find dozens and dozens of companies with variations of the ‘apple’ theme.

Prolly don’t have as deep pockets as Jobs and the boys though…

[Footnote: This article was originally posted on our (now) Legacy Blog and moved to its current location for consistency and database functionality. While it was accurate at the time of publication, it is currently posted as part of our historical record and details may have changed.]