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Learning English - Words in the News
31 March, 2006 - Published 09:47 GMT
Taking a bite out of Apple
Apple Computer Logo

The High Court in London is hearing a case brought by a company owned by former members of the Beatles rock group. The company, Apple Corps, claims that Apple Computer has infringed its trademark by distributing music through Apple iTunes. This report from Mark Gregory

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This court battle pits the icons of two different musical generations against each other.

On one side is Apple Corps, a music distribution business, owned by former members of the legendary 1960s rock band the Beatles and their heirs. Its logo is a green apple of the Granny Smith variety. On the other side is Apple Computer, the company behind the iPod portable listening device and iTunes a phenomenally successful internet music downloading service. Its logo is an apple with a bite taken out of it.

Apple Corps claims it got there first with the name, and that Apple Computer is infringing a trademark it’s had since 1968.

This is the third time the issue has gone to court. On two previous occasions Apple Computer lost and had to make multi-million dollar payments. Crucially the last judgement in 1991 barred Apple Computer from distributing music under the Apple name on physical media - which at the time meant CDs and tapes.

The question before the court now is does Apple iTunes, which distributes songs electronically, count as physical media. If it does, the computer group may have to pay its namesake tens of millions of dollars in damages. The judge hearing the case has admitted to owning an Apple iPod but hasn't divulged if he downloads music or is a fan of the Beatles.

Mark Gregory, BBC

Listen to the words

pits the icons
puts these two companies into competition with each other – the icons are the images that represent these companies (here two versions of an apple)

music distribution business
a company that sells music and music related products (e.g. song lyric books). Originally music was sold on vinyl records, tapes and then CDs (compact discs). Now music can be distributed or sent between electronic devices (e.g. computers) so there is no need for a physical version of the song

a recognisable sign or symbol of a company, e.g. the Apple picture connected with Apple Computer, or the Granny Smith apple connected with the Beatles company

portable listening device
a small machine that can store music - people carry them around so that they can listen to music whenever they want

music downloading service
a service that lets people get music from a company’s computer and store them on their own computer or portable listening device (e.g. mobile phone). This means that the person does not need to buy a physical version (e.g. a CD) of the music

infringing a trademark
using another company’s name or symbol without permission

barred Apple Computer from distributing music under the Apple name
stopped or prevented Apple Computer from using the Apple name if it wanted to sell music products

distributes songs electronically
sends songs to people’s computers using the internet (a huge group of computers linked together with wires) or, more recently, across wireless systems (e.g. a mobile telephone network)

here, a company named after another company (can also be a person named after another person)

(legal use) money a court orders one company or person to pay another company or person (this happens because the second company has been harmed by something the first company did

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