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Beatles and Apple settle legal fight over logo

A 25-year dispute between the Beatles and Apple computer company over the use of the apple logo was settled yesterday at the doors of the Court of Appeal in London.

The agreement between the makers of the iPod and the two surviving Beatles, as well as John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono and the estate of George Harrison, could pave the way for the Beatles' back catalogue to be released on the internet.

In the latest round of a dispute that had its first airing in 1981, the two sides went to court over a 1991 trademark deal. The Beatles said Apple Inc had breached the agreement by breaking into the music business through the introduction of iTunes, which displayed the apple logo. Apple Corps, the guardian of the Beatles music, wanted the High Court to award damages and stop the US company using the logo in music operations.

But, in May last year, a judge ruled the computer company used the logo in association with its store, not the music, and so was not in breach of the agreement.

Mr Justice Mann ruled that Apple Inc had not "crossed the line" with downloads. He said it was all a matter of interpretation as to whether the music store was selling recordings or transmitting data.

It was his view that the service was not being used to sell the music but the software. Apple Corps, facing a legal bill of up to £3m, vowed to take the case to the Court of Appeal.

Yesterday, the two sides agreed to end the dispute.

The two companies, who agreed to pay their own legal bills before the appeal, due to start this month, said Apple Inc would now own all trademarks related to "Apple" and would license certain trademarks back to Apple Corps. "We love the Beatles, and it has been painful being at odds with them over these trademarks," Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive, said.

Neil Aspinall, the manager of Apple Corps, said it was great to put the dispute behind them and move on. "The years ahead are going to be very exciting times for us. We wish Apple Inc every success and look forward to many years of peaceful co-operation with them."

In the court case last year Apple had argued iTunes was primarily a data transmission service and permitted by the agreement.

The Beatles are the most high profile group to have withheld their music from internet music services such as iTunes. But now the dispute has been ended, the music of the group may well be released online, leading some observers to predict the Fab Four could be top of the charts once again.