Revived logo dispute frivolous, spoils The Beatles' reputation
April 3, 2006 —
They say a bad apple ruins the whole bunch. Such is the case in a lawsuit recently filed by The Beatles that finds Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and the widows of George Harrison and John Lennon suing Apple Computer over what amounts to a squabble over a piece of cartoon fruit.
The lawsuit is seeking an unknown amount of damages as well as trying to force Apple to drop its familiar logo from the iTunes Music Store.
The reason for the lawsuit stems from a supposed breach of agreement between the computer giant and The Beatles' record label, Apple Corps.
The Beatles founded Apple Corps in 1968 and under it released such albums as "Yellow Submarine" and "Abbey Road." Fast forward past a few more Beatles albums and a handful of no-name artists that were released under Apple records and you come to the 1980s, when Apple computers started popping up all over the place.
It was then that The Beatles sued and the two companies locked horns for a decade until Apple Computer forked over $26.5 million in an out-of-court settlement in 1991.
While exact details of the settlement are still surfacing, most seem to agree that Steve Jobs and company were allowed to use the apple logo under the condition they didn't poke their nose into the Beatles' business and vice versa.
Basically, that meant that Apple couldn't start making music and The Beatles promised not to pursue the computer thing (though I have to admit that iRingo does have a certain ring to it).
In the meantime, Bill Gates came onto the scene, took over the world, and left Apple high and dry. Next thing you know, college kids started downloading pirated music, someone invented an iPod, and before anyone knew what was happening, the Mac was back. And so were The Beatles and their high-powered lawyers.
One such lawyer for Apple Corps said they had no problem with Apple Computer creating programs like iTunes that are capable of playing music but that they shouldn't produce it.
Lawyers for Apple are countering by saying their client doesn't produce music, just sells it, and that anyone who thinks Apple Computer actually produced all 3.5 million songs available on iTunes is completely ignorant.
This whole debacle between the two sides gets even more puzzling when comparing the logos for the two companies.
While most recognize the cartoon apple with a bite out of it that is plastered on the front of their iPod, few are familiar with the whole green Granny Smith apple that Apple Corps uses as its defining image.
If high priced lawyers really believe there is a case here, then I wouldn't be surprised if a lawsuit turns up next week pitting Fruit Loops against Cocoa Puffs because they both use birds as mascots. While they're at it, they should probably throw Honey Nut Cheerios into the mix since they use a bee and bees can fly and that equals, like, half a bird.
Surely, this whole fiasco can't be about the money. As long as nobody bought a real life yellow submarine, The Beatles should have more than enough money to survive. So if the lawsuit is not about them getting paid, what is the beef here?
Well, it could just be an ego thing. I'm sure Sir Paul McCartney is frustrated that today's youth own more iPods than Beatles LPs, so he probably feels the need to stick it to the man like they did back in the 60s.
Or, it could be about boredom. When you're as rich and talent-less as Ringo Starr, you're bound to need something to keep yourself busy from time to time. Maybe if someone would have just shown him how to use MySpace, this whole debacle could have been avoided in the first place.
Ultimately, what I'm left wondering is how a company can even trademark a piece of fruit. If the logos don't look similar, then what gives The Beatles the right to do this again?
The bottom line here is that this lawsuit is a prime example of both the amount of greed in the world and how frivolous lawsuits are getting. For whatever reason, The Beatles decided they couldn't live with Apple Computer selling music on iTunes because it happens to use a tiny logo that is partially similar to a piece of fruit they think they discovered back in the late 1960s.
After this whole thing plays out, I'm scared that I'll end up oweing Paul McCartney money the next time I eat an apple at the RFoC.
If I were The Beatles, I would realize that this kind of nonsense is the sort of stuff that happened Yesterday, Back in the USSR. The managing bodies of Apple Corps need to Come Together and decide to just Let It Be. If not, we'll all be left knowing that while they can keep you from needing a doctor, an apple a day will not keep The Beatles away.