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Trademark rift between Apples may be over soon

End of the long and winding road?

The trademark battle between Apple Computer and The Beatles' record label is likely to be in a judge's hands tomorrow.

British Justice Edward Mann will decide whether to grant Apple Corps an injunction that would bar Apple Computer from using its logo related to selling music through the iTunes Music Store. The record company could then pursue damages against Apple Computer.

It's the third time the two parties have met in civil court over the past 25 years, with Apple Computer paying The Beatles' caretaker company damages twice before over logo disagreements.

The record label contends that Apple Computer has breached a 1991 trademark agreement that prohibited the use of a bite-marked apple in connection with musical content, including the iTunes application and advertisements.

The agreement, resulting from a second lawsuit, limited how the two companies could use their apples in certain fields of business. Apple Corps' label, a green Granny Smith apple, appears in the centre of The Beatles' vinyl records, among other places.

Apple Computer contends that its logo advertises the iTunes software and services and not the musical content itself.

London's High Court heard detailed testimony from two Apple executives on Monday plus an expert witness for Apple Corps.

Eddy Cue, vice-president of iTunes, said he disagreed with Apple Corps lawyer Geoffrey Vos's claim that the logo used in the brushed-silver bar in the iTunes application advertised music.

"I think it is used in connection with the service, not the content," Cue said.

Apple Computer has submitted documents detailing how its apple disappears during the course of buying a song, complying with the agreement.

Apple Corps has countered that the computer company's co-founder Steve Jobs has repeatedly said in public how the iTunes Music Store offers exclusive content from artists such as U2, Eminem and Bob Dylan. The label also claims the logo advertises songs not available on other download services.

Whether the third lawsuit is the swansong that ends all trademark disputes between the companies is impossible to gauge.

Neil Aspinall, a long-time Beatles confidant who has run Apple Corps since 1973, attended Monday's hearing and was seen speaking with Apple Computer officials after the day's testimony.

Aspinall's affidavit sheds light on relations between the iconic companies. The 13-page document, dated 1 March, says Aspinall was told by Jobs that he named the computer company after the record label.

In March 2003, Jobs offered $1m (about £580,000) for the rights to the name Apple Records, according to Aspinall.

"I rejected this offer," Aspinall said in the document. "I did not expect that Apple Computer would attempt to use the name Apple and apple marks in connection with pre-recorded music."


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