An interesting lawsuit may be nearing settlement soon. Baby boomers with long memories will recall that the Beatles’ record label was “Apple Records,” and their company was “Apple Corps.”

When Apple Computer started up, the Beatles’ company sued Apple Computer and settled the case for a huge cash payment and an agreement that Apple Computer would use the name and logo only in the computer business, while Apple Corps. would use it in the field of entertainment.

By the end of the 80s, when it was obvious that computers were being used for music and entertainment, Apple Corps. sued for breach of the 1981 agreement. In 1991, Apple Computer agreed to pay another huge cash settlement, and entered into an agreement with one inflexible provision: Apple Computer was expressly prohibited from using the Apple trademark for any application “whose principle content is music.” Here’s an article with more background information, and here’s a slightly different version. Although both settlements were confidential, it’s estimated that Apple Computer has paid more than $50 million to Apple Corps.

Things were quiet for a few years, but then Apple Computer introduced the iPod with big posters trumpeting the new product from “AppleMusic.” Beatles’ legal insiders briefly wondered what they were smoking at Apple Computer, then got busy and sued Apple Computer again in September 2003.

Word in the legal community is that a settlement is imminent – and that it will be a big one. 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.” There’s speculation that Apple Company may become a major shareholder in Apple Computer, maybe even landing Paul McCartney a seat on the board of Apple Computer. Here’s an article with more details.

A Macintosh user group published an April Fools Day piece this year – a phony press release announcing that Apple Corps. was purchasing Apple Computer, and the Beatles’ catalog would be exclusively available on iTunes. It may turn out to be less of a joke than it first appeared.

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