The industry's most enduring fruit-and-nut case is back for the third time of asking: Apple versus Apple. Apple Corps, home of such rock music aristocracy as Doris Troy, Grapefruit and The Beatles, has long been mildly irked at Apple Computer's use of a similar logo to the Corps' famously green Granny Smith. The first time they went to court at the beginning of the 80s, Apple Computer paid a small fine and agreed not to use the logo for anything to do with music.
Then came the 1990s, multimedia, MIDI and sample files on the Mac called Sosumi. Court case number two. Apple Computer had to cough up $26.5m, in exchange for which it was allowed to do musical computers but not actually sell music in physical form, or use the Apple logo for what legal experts call 'that sort of thing'. Is the combination of an iPod and iTunes Music Shop a physical form of music? Is having the Apple Computer logo on a Coldplay video too similar to having the Apple Corps logo on a record label?
The court has to decide. It sounds like quite a fun case, with the judge being a self-confessed iPod owner and the prosecution downloading Le Freak to the frank admiration of everyone within earshot. Isn't that a public performance, though, as explicitly forbidden by our moral masters? I'm only asking. Apple Computer is, by some accounts, preparing for the worst – with a cash stash of $8bn, it can afford any fine but it may have to get its logo and name off iTunes. Or maybe it can buy Apple Corps and get Pixar to do a remake of Yellow Submarine — the Hunt For Yellow October, perhaps, with Sean Connery as a Blue Meanie.
All this means that one of my long-held fantasies is unlikely to come true, that of Jobs and Woz starting up a Beatles' tribute band. There's no shortage of potential cross-over ideas — "Got To Get You Into iLife", "Father Mackensie", writing his blogs in the night when there's nobody there. Nobody cares.", "Hey Jobs, take an iPod, and make it whiiiiter", "PowerBook Writer" and so on. Doubtless, you can do better.
As could Apple Corps: it's hardly likely that anyone's confused enough to think they're behind the iPod. There's a chance that the company is still miffed that its own attempts at producing gizmos — Apple Electronics — foundered because of the small problem that it was based entirely on the acid-fried imaginings of one Magic Alex. Some people wander into a field, stare at the cosmos and come back with the idea of a solar-powered electric guitar; others come up with the personal computer.
What's that you say, Apple? You say it's your birthday? Lawyers! Quick!