Why Did The Beatles Sue Apple?

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beatles sue apple

Do you know that The Beatles took the worlds largest tech company, Apple Computers to court? But why did The Beatles sue Apple, and what was the outcome? For all intent and purposes, they were essentially in different markets, so there was no competitive value for a legal stouch between the two. But despite this fact, a legal battle raged between two giants in their own respective industries, and it lasted over 20 years.

These two need very little introduction. The Beatless are without a doubt one of the biggest and most successful entertainers in history. Although the life of their band was cut short due to their own overwhelming popularity, the string of unrivaled successes that they bought about has never been matched. Apple on the other hand is the monolith, undisputed king of tech companies, responsible for some of the biggest advances in technology over the last 40 years. With Apple’s iTunes, the pair should have been the coziest of couples. But things could not have been worse between them, and their legal wranglings was the main reason that The Beetles songs took so long to become a part of the iTunes store.

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The Beatles Sue Apple: Big guy takes on the little guy

In 1967 The Beatles created a company known at the time simply as Apple (later Apple corps). The purpose of this company was to reduce their tax burden, and focus multimedia and electronics. They had to do something with all their money or just pay tax, so they took a business approach to the situation. Nine years later across the pond a young  Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne created a small electronics company known as Apple inc, a name that would go on to change the world. The two companies both flourished in their respective industries, until the Beatles owned Apple corps sued Apple inc for trademark infringement in 1978. It was like the big guy of the playground picking on the smaller, but quickly growing freshman.

After three years of legal discussions and arguments, the respective companies reached a settlement. The outcome was that Apple inc, which is the Jobs one, was to pay the Beatles $80,000 for use of the name, and Apple inc was not to enter the music industry, and the Beatles Apple corps wasn’t to enter the electronics industry. The agreement seemed fair to me, and can be regarded as a win for the Beatles. But this was just the beginning, and far from the end of the fight between the two companies.

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Five years later it was on again. Apple computers decided to add audio recorders to their computers. It was a win for the consumer, but would be a loss for Apple Computers. Apple corps once again sued claiming that the original agreement had been breached, and won in 1989. It effectively stopped any further moves into multimedia by Apple, but only briefly.

Two years later Apple Computers was at it again, looking to piss off someone who had already beaten the crap out of them twice already. This time around an Apple employee entered a sample of music on the Macintosh operating system later called “sosumi,” (so sue me). This breach wound up costing Apple Computers $26.5 million in settlement. The Beatles were three from three, but that didn’t deter Apple inc one bit. They wanted another showdown, the catalyst this time was the industry changing iTunes.

In 2003 The Beatles sued Apple for breach of their previous agreement. At the center of the dispute was iTunes. Both sides had compelling arguments, and it was a fight that Jobs’ Apple couldn’t lose. A loss had the potential to give the Beatles owned Apple majority control over the company.

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Three years later after a grueling trial, the judge found in favor of Apple Computers. It was their first win against The Beatles in three decades. Apple corps promptly appealed the decision. In 2007 the long running dispute was settled for an undisclosed amount. It finally ended the legal battle between the two icons.

Relations between the two seemed to finally become friendly in 2010 when The Beatles released their catalogue on iTunes.

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