Apple v. Apple closing arguments focus on timing

Apple Corps executives did not object to names and logos now under dispute when they were shown an Apple Computer iTunes Music Store demonstration four months before the public service launched, an Apple Computer attorney said Wednesday during closing arguments in a trademark dispute.

The legal wrangling pits Apple Corps, The Beatles' record label, against Apple Computer. A logo depicting an apple with a bite out of it is at the center of the disagreement. Following closing arguments in the High Court in London, the case will go to Justice Edward Mann, who will decide whether to grant an injunction barring Apple Computer from using the logo for the iTunes Music Store.

Justice Mann said as the hearing closed Wednesday that he would probably issue his ruling toward the end of the month, not before the Easter weekend in the U.K. starting April 15.

Earlier in the day, Apple Computer's attorney Anthony Grabiner said that Apple Corps chief Neil Aspinall gave "self-serving" testimony last week when he alleged that the logo in question now violates a 1991 agreement between the companies. Apple Corps executives saw the iTunes Music Store demonstration in January 2003, before the service launched, Grabiner said.

"That is obviously the product of discussion with lawyers," Grabiner said of Aspinall's testimony.

Apple Corps attorney Geoffrey Vos charged that the computer company was a "Johnny-come-lately" to the Apple name, and has deliberately trespassed on a registered trademark.

"Apple Computer has been trying to take more and more away from us," Vos said.

Apple Corps -- created in 1968, eight years before Apple Computer -- has been victorious twice before in trademark lawsuits involving different names and logos. Apple Corps is owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono Lennon and the estate of George Harrison.

This time around, Apple Corps is alleging the computer company agreed in 1991 to not use its logo related to the sale of music. During the trial, attorneys for the record label have cited violations, playing TV commercials featuring music on the iTunes Music Store.

Apple Computer has in part deflected the charges by finely describing how its bite-marked apple logo disappears during purchases from the iTunes Music Store. The logo is only used to advertise the iTunes service, not the content, Apple Computer has argued.

A ruling against Apple Computer could mean the company would have to change the way its logo is presented in relation to the iTunes application and Music Store. Apple Corps would likely then pursue damages.

Apple Computer doesn't reveal revenue figures, but its iTunes Music Store isn't a huge revenue generator. Analysts say record labels receive the lion's share of sales of albums and songs, with most of the remainder expended by Apple Computer for the service's overhead.

Nonetheless, the Music Store has been an important component to help sell the company's iPod line, which has propelled the company's profits since its introduction in 2001.

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Jeremy Kirk

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