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Apple wins musical trademark case by citing Apple Corps mark

By | Published on Tuesday 20 April 2021

Apple Music

Apple has prevailed in its latest musical trademark battle thanks to the outcome of a previous much higher profile musical trademark battle. So, that’s good. For Apple.

When Apple decided to enter the streaming business in 2015 as Apple Music – rather than using some variation on its existing iTunes brand – the tech giant got about registering the trademark in the name that it had chosen for its new streaming platform.

But in 2016, American jazz musician Charles Bertini opposed that trademark registration in the US because he had been staging shows in New York since the 1980s – and later pursued other musical projects too – under the brand name Apple Jazz. Apple Music was too similar to Apple Jazz, he argued, and would result in consumer confusion.

Bertini’s use of the Apple Jazz brand long pre-dated the tech firm’s decision to launch a service called Apple Music, and even its original dabblings in the music space via the iPod and iTunes. However, of course, you’re forgetting that The Beatles started using the Apple brand in the 1960s for all sorts of musical endeavours.

Fans of trademark disputes won’t have forgotten that, though, given the various high profile bust-ups that occurred over the years between the Fab Four’s Apple Corps company and what used to be called Apple Computer Inc. However, those various legal battles between the two Apple companies were finally settled in a mega-bucks deal in 2007.

Although it took another three years to get The Beatles catalogue onto the iTunes Store, a key feature of that 2007 deal was that Apple Inc bought the trademarks of Apple Corps, and then licensed them back to the Beatles company.

Which means, therefore, in its new legal battle with Bertini, Apple was able to argue that it has a music-related Apple trademark dating all the way back to 1968, and therefore has a stronger claim than the jazz musician to own a similar but different music-related Apple trademark in the 21st Century.

And last week the US Trademark Trial And Appeal Board accepted that argument and found in favour of Apple Inc. All settled then? Well, a legal rep for Bertini told Law360 that he and his client were “hopeful [the decision] can be reversed upon reconsideration or appeal”. So we’ll see.