Variety has set the speculation machines on fire today by reporting that Apple and The Beatles are close to a settlement in the two companiesi legal dispute. According to the entertainment magazine, the settlement would "dwarf the US$26.5 million" paid to the Beatles in the 1990s the last time they sued Apple. Variety also says that there is speculation that Sir Paul McCartney cold become a board member at Apple. From the magazine:
Word among the legal community is that an out of court settlement could be imminent and that it will massively dwarf the $26.5 million paid to the Fab Fouris company in 1991 in a row over trademark use.
One lawyer told Daily Variety, "People are expecting this to be the biggest settlement anywhere in legal history, outside of a class action suit. The numbers could be mind boggling."
Some speculation suggests the settlement could see Apple Corps. becoming a major shareholder in the computer company, with Paul McCartney maybe even becoming a board member.
The Beatles sued Apple in 2003 for breach of contract after Apple entered the online music download business with the iTunes Music Store (iTMS).
According to the (remaining two of the) Fab Four, the iTMS violated a 1991 settlement between The Beatlesi management company, Apple Corps, and Apple Computer that precluded Apple Computer from being involved in the music business. Apple Corps owns a trademark for its name in the music business, which was the source of that lawsuit and the subsequent payment of US$26.5 million from Apple in 1999.
For his part, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has maintained that the issue between The Beatles and his company was a trademark dispute. In September of 2003, Steve Jobs told UK newspaper the Independent that:
"Apple Corporation and Apple [Computer] signed a legal agreement more than a decade ago. I wasnit there, and it says what each company can do with their trademark. I inherited that, and right now thereis a disagreement about this. Itis a trademark dispute... We might have to get a judge to decide on it."
Later that month, UK newspaper The Times reported that Mr. Jobs had said of the lawsuit that, "Itis really stupid. We canit reach an agreement, but the courts could drag on for a few years."
In October, he added to that sentiment by saying that, "Itis unfortunate because we love the Beatles. Iid do anything for those guys." In fact, one of the legends of Appleis founding has it that the name Apple Computer did indeed stem from Steve Jobsi love of The Beatles.
The Beatles have been quite litigious over the years through its corporate branch, Apple Corps. In addition to suing Apple Computer three times, The Beatles have aggressively defended their copyrights and other legal rights through the courts.
For its part, Apple has an enormous cash reserve of more than US$5 billion.