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Apple Music trademark blocked over branding conflict with musician

Court rejects Apple

A court has rejected Apple's attempt to register the Apple Music trademark to its "Apple Corps" brand it acquired from The Beatles, favoring an independent artist.

The company argued that it had priority over musician Charlie Bertini's "Apple Jazz" trademark rights, that had been in use since 1985. Apple owns an earlier trademark from the Beatles' music label Apple Corps Ltd.

Apple applied for a federal trademark for "Apple Music" when it launched the streaming service in 2015. Bertini had opposed the application, saying it would lead to confusion with his Apple Jazz trademark, according to Reuters.

Both sides agreed that consumers would be confused by Apple's trademark. However, in 2021, a tribunal at the US Trademark Office ruled in favor of Apple, concluding that it had earlier rights to the term based on a 1968 "Apple" trademark for sound recordings that it had acquired from Apple Corps in 2007.

But in a recent hearing, the Federal Circuit panel unanimously reversed the decision. It said Apple couldn't "tack" its trademark rights for live performances to the Apple Corps trademark for sound recordings because that is a different category.

"Tacking a mark for one good or service does not grant priority for every other good or service in the trademark application," the court said.

Bertini's attorney, his brother James Bertini, said it was a long, difficult struggle, and they were happy with the decision. "Perhaps this decision will also help other small companies to protect their trademark rights."