Beatles and Jobs agree on Apple trade mark

The Beatles and Steve Jobs have settled their dispute over the right to use the trade mark Apple for their respective businesses. The deal is the latest in a three decade-long string of agreements over the disputed name.

The computer company has bought the rights to the Apple trade mark but in a deal which sees it license back certain of those rights to the record label. Apple Inc, formerly Apple Computer, is said to have paid up to $100 million for the rights.

The deal could pave the way for Beatles songs to be sold through Apple's iTunes music service, the existence of which caused much of the trouble in the first place. The Beatles are one of the few remaining major bands to have resisted online music sales so far.

The Beatles formed Apple in 1968 and released their subsequent albums, such as Abbey Road and the white album, on it. Apple Computer was formed in 1976 when Jobs and Steve Wozniak built computers in a Californian garage.

The first legal scuffle between the two companies came in 1978, when record company Apple Corps sued Apple Inc for trade mark infringement. In 1981 Jobs and Apple Inc paid $80,000 but, more importantly, agreed never to enter the music business.

When Apple's Macintosh computers began to include multimedia software in the 1980s, including music production software of a kind, Apple Corps came calling again, claiming that Apple was now in the music business.

In 1991 it paid up again, this time paying the record company $26.5 million for the right to use the Apple name and logo for selling computers and software, while the record company retained it for selling music.

When Apple launched the iPod in 2001 and, more particularly, iTunes in 2003, another clash was inevitable. Apple Corps again took Apple Inc to task over its claims of trade mark infringement.

The High Court in England ruled last May that the Apple name and logo applied to the iTunes store itself and not the music, and that Apple Inc had not infringed the Beatles company's rights.

The two sides have now come to a deal, with each paying its own legal costs. Investment bank Piper Jaffray estimates that Apple Inc will have paid the record company between $50 million and $100 million for the trade mark rights in a deal which could finally end the disputes between the two companies.