Monday, May 08, 2006

A Couple of Copywrite Lawsuits

Today a few decisions came out about copywrite lawsuits that are of interest to me as a fan of the Texas Aggies and the Beatles. In the case of the Aggies, the suit was brought against the Seattle Seahawks and their use of the "12th Man." A deal was reached today between Texas A&M and the Seahawks.

As past of the agreement, the Seahawks acknowledge Texas A&M's ownership rights of the trademark phrase. However, the NFL team may continue using it under license. Neither side admitted any fault or liability.

Admittedly, college football is as much about money as professional football, so this deal has "Dollar" Bill Byrne's fingerprints all over it. Regardless of the motivation I am still glad that the lawsuit was settled because A&M really does have history and the law on it's side. If you don't act to protect your trademark, why bother even registering it? A few more bucks for the university won't hurt either.

The second suit of interest is the one brought against Apple Computers by the Beatles' Apple Records label. The crux of this particular ruling deals with the use of the "Apple" logo.

Apple Corps contended that the computer company had broken a 1991 agreement in which each agreed not to enter into the other's field of business.

But Judge Edward Mann ruled that the logo was used in association with the store, not the music, and thus was not a breach.

Lawyers for U.S.-based Apple Computer had argued that it was conducting its business legally and that music lovers are smart enough to tell the difference between the logos.

Apple Corps uses a shiny green apple as its logo, while Apple Computer has a cartoon-like apple with a neat bite taken out.

So there you have it. Consumers aren't stupid and nobody buys an Apple Computer expecting to get a Beatles album. I'd go so far as to say that most people have probably never heard of Apple Records. But still a company has to at least work to protect it's trademark. However, the Beatles themselves have settled this trademark case before.

The 1991 agreement ended previous lengthy litigation over the logo.

Apple Computer told the court that it paid the Fab Four's company $26.5 million as part of the 1991 out-of-court settlement, and in return had received "a considerably expanded field of use."

But since Apple Computers is making so much money from the sale of iPods and mp3 downloads from iTunes, it would seem that the Beatles want to wet their beaks. Somehow I don't think we have heard the end of this dispute.

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