Today in Apple history: The Beatles beat Apple in court

By •

Apple vs. The Beatles is one of the less likely feuds in Apple history.
Photo: Apple Corps.

9 October Today in Apple historyOctober 9, 1991: Apple is ordered in court to pay out $26.5 million to The Beatles’ record label and holding company Apple Corps for trademark infringement.

It is the second time Apple is forced to pay The Beatles money after initially reaching an agreement 10 years earlier, stating that Apple would never get into the music business.

Apple’s Beatles battles

The Beatles started using the name Apple Corp in 1968. According to The Beatles’ publicist, Derek Taylor, Paul McCartney named it Apple because it represented the group growing up in terms of its business strategy. “What is the first thing that a child is taught when he begins to grow up?” McCartney said. “A is for Apple.”

Apple (the computer company) was incorporate a decade later in 1977. At the time, it seemed like there was no risk the two companies would cross over into one another’s intellectual space. Nonetheless, it didn’t take long after the launch of the Apple II for Apple Corps to file a lawsuit protecting its name. This was settled in 1981, with Apple Computer paying Apple Corps $80,000, and agreeing that it would never enter the music business.

Things stayed like that until 1986, when Apple added MIDI and audio-recording to the Mac and Apple II product lines. In February 1989, Apple Corps sued again, claiming that its 1981 agreement had been violated. In particular, the company singled out the Mac Plus, Mac SE and Mac II, as well as the Apple IIGS, AppleCD SC drive and Apple’s MIDI device.

This was eventually settled on October 9, 1991. This time, amusingly, The Beatles’ lawyers suggested that Apple should change its name to Banana or Peach to get around future issues. Apple also signed a deal stating that it could manufacture and sell devices that “reproduce, run, play or otherwise deliver such content” so long as this wasn’t on physical media.

Ultimately, hostilities between the two companies continued until February 2007. Today, any animosity is ended and The Beatles’ music is available on both iTunes and Apple Music.

Do you remember the era when Apple Computer battled Apple Corps in the courts? Leave your comments below.