The inevitable has happened: The Beatles have sued Steve Jobs over Apple iTunes and the Apple iPod -- at least the band's company, Apple Corps., has sued Apple Computers.
The case was apparently filed a short time ago in London's High Court of Justice, but was just served on Apple Computers in California in the last couple of days. Although details from the court papers aren't yet available, the gist of the breach of contract suit is as follows.
When Apple Computers first came into existence, the Beatles' lawyers sued -- and won -- over the use of the corporate name. The Fab Four, it was widely known, already had their own company called Apple Corps. (Ironically, Jobs admitted to naming his company as a tribute to the Beatles.) The result of the suit was a huge cash settlement and a promise that the Apple logo and name would only be used for computers -- and never for a music company.
Several years later, when computers starting having music come through attachable speakers, the Beatles again sued and won, this time over breach of a trademark agreement since Apple Computers had agreed to steer clear of the music business. Their winnings against Apple Computers have come to an estimated $50 million so far.
When Jobs announced the iPod portable music player and companion music site iTunes, this column was the first to mention that the computer company could be in serious violation of its agreement with the Beatles. Now it appears that the Beatles' lawyers, Eversheds of London, are in agreement.
"When it first happened with the iPod, we said, "What could they be thinking?" said a Beatles legal insider, who agreed that posters announcing the iPod from "AppleMusic" were among the most egregious violations. "They knew we had the agreement, and that we'd won a lot of money from them already."
A call by this column to Apple Computers' legal counsel, Nancy Heinen, was refused this afternoon. But my Beatles source said, "It's OK with us if they want to go this route. It's just more money for us."