September 16, 2003 03:44 PM

Northern California’s Apple Computer Inc. is being sued in a London court by England’s Apple Corps — the music and licensing company for the Beatles — over Apple Computer’s iTunes online music store, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The trademark-infringement suit claims the computer company broke a 1991 agreement limiting the role it could play in the music business. The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, reportedly asks that Apple Computer cease and desist from using the Apple name with its iTunes service.

The 1991 agreement “specified the rights each company would have to use the ‘Apple’ trademark,” Apple Computer spokesman Todd Wilder tells the Times. “Unfortunately, Apple and Apple Corps now have differing interpretations of this agreement and will need to ask a court to resolve this dispute.”

The end result could be a bad one for iTunes, notes the paper, which reports that the existing pact bans Beatles songs from the music service.

Another downside of the suit could be that it would put the kibosh on plans by Apple Computer CEO Steve Job’s plan to unveil the so-far only Mac-compatible iTunes in a new, Windows PC format.

So far, iTunes is the most successful effort to sell licensed tunes online. To date, more than 10 million songs have been sold.

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