Who owns the trademark to the Apple? Granny Smith? Sir Isaac Newton? Eve?

Well apparently its a bit up in the air, but the apples that are being juggled are about to hit the floor for the round three of what is turning into a 25 year legal battle.

In this corner, we have a small unknown quartet named after some bugs, The Beatles. And in this corner, we have a little known computer manufacturer that holds about a 5% market share in the PC industry, Apple Computer.

So how can The Beatles have a quarrell with Apple Computer? After all isn’t Steve Jobs a reincarnated Techno Hippie? Didn’t he get cut from the cool mode of the 60’s, recognize the benefits of computer design at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center and Wozniak himself to center stage as a business mogul with impecable advertising taste? What can the beatles care about computers?

Well, in 1968 The Beatles formed a record company under a company name of Apple Corps. They produced their own records as well as other artists. Apparently, Steve Jobs wasn’t paying attention to trademark law 101 while he listened to his beatles album and watched the ‘Apple’ spin around and around eating eggplant.

So 8 years later he starts a computer company named Apple Computer. Both companies use an apple as their symbol. The Beatles as astute business men of the rip roaring greed is good 80’s promptly sue and settle with Apple Computer for $80,000 + a meaningless promise from Apple Computer to stay out of the music business (an obvious no brainer for some hacker nerds, right!)

Not so fast, Wozniak likes to play guitar! In 1989, Apple came out with music making software and the cage match was on again. This time Apple paid $26 million. The Beatles’ Apple Corps received the right to use the ‘apple’ on creations principally of musical content. Apple got the ability to run, reproduce or play said content but could not distribute content on physical media.

Obviously, Apple paid attention to that legal precedent. So now in 2006 The Beattles have reunited to sue Apple, again for itunes distribution.

An ipod owning judge will have to determine whether or not Apple is physically distributing creations principally of musical content in physical media.

Case law to be made here!

Is flash memory physical media and is the distribution of an MP3 file to flash memory or a hard drive even distribution of content on physical media? Or is Distribution of any musical content to Physical media the real issue. Originally, Apple wasn’t supposed to distribute CDs and tapes. Musical content had just gone digital on CD’s but had not come off the CD’s and onto MP3’s yet. Will evidence show that Apple shipped ipods with mucic pre-loaded?

I guess it boils down to a question of did Apple knowingly attempt to stretch the rope of what they were allowed or did they lengthen the noose that might ultimately hang them.

Apple(Jobs and Wozniak) danced circles around a different 60’s era company, Xerox. Could a 60’s era company with better Karma ultimately be Apple Computer’s undoing?

Britain, UK news from The Times and The Sunday Times – Times Online