“For the third time since 1981, Apple faces a legal scrap with Apple Corps, the music- and copyright-management outfit originally formed by the Beatles,” Alex Salkever writes for BusinessWeek. The pending claim alleges that the iTunes online music store violates a previous agreement limiting the types of business Apple Computer may pursue under the Apple trademark. The case will be heard in London’s High Court later this year. In the two previous cases, Apple Corps emerged as the clear victor, basically dictating terms to Apple Computer.

“This time the outcome is far from a lock for Apple Corps. Make no mistake: There will be a settlement. No one benefits from pushing a case all the way through a full trial and appeals because the costs are prohibitive. But analyst predictions that the case could cost Apple Computer hundreds of millions of dollars in settlement payments, even the use of its own name on music products, are way out of line,” Salkever writes.

“‘The iPod and iTunes brand names are very, very strong,’ says Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with tech consultancy Jupiter Research. In fact, Apple has already taken a step in that direction by creating a new division exclusively for iPod design, production, and manufacturing,” Salkever writes.

“This is one suit that appears to present a strong chance for an Apple Computer win. However, it’s nearly impossible to predict judicial logic — even if the judge owns an iPod, as the one hearing this case does. But if Apple Computer should lose this legal battle, it still has the artillery triumph in the digital-download war. Maybe it could finally ink a deal with Apple Corp that adds those much-missed Beatles songs to the iTunes Music Store,” Salkever writes.

Full article here.