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High Court to hear Apple versus Apple on iTunes

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Apple Computer will take on Apple Corps in the High Court on Wednesday in a dispute over whether the iTunes music service breaches an agreement with the Beatles' record label and infringes its trademarks.

It is the third time the two well-known brands have been to court over the computer company's use of the Apple name.

The first dispute was resolved in 1981, when Apple Computer agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to Apple Corps, and Steve Jobs, head of the computer firm, agreed to restrict the use of the brand he founded to computer products only. Jobs is a Beatles fan – but has never had the rights to sell the band's music on iTunes.

In 1989, Apple Corps again sued Apple Computer, this time over the company's use and sale of music-related software. The case settled in 1991 with a payment of $27m and another restrictive agreement.

However, in September 2003, Apple Corps filed suit again, over "the use by Apple Computer of the word 'Apple' and apple logos in conjunction with its new application for downloading pre-recorded music from the internet".

That new application – iTunes – has now sold over a billion downloads.

Apple Corps argues that iTunes is in breach of the restrictive agreement between the two companies and infringes upon its trademarks. Apple Computer argues that iTunes is a mechanism allowing "data transmission" and that downloads are permitted in terms of the agreement as they are "data transfers", according to reports.

The case begins in the High Court tomorrow before Mr Justice Mann who has admitted to being an iPod owner.

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OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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