Apple Moves to Finally Own the Original Apple Logo

In what will be a sad end to a long-running trademark war, Apple Computers is taking action to finally get to own what we always thought was a unique symbol associated with the Beatles – the original Apple Corps logo.

This one came to my notice about mid-March – and as a Beatles collector with a fondness for the Beatles Apple Records label I find it interesting and so have done a bit more research.

As Shelley Germeaux wrote in her regular John Lennon Examiner column last month, this comes as a result of a 23 year-long legal battle between the two companies. The Beatles and Apple Corps actually lost their legal rights to the famous Granny Smith apple logos as part of a 2007 settlement.  Apple Inc. is now just taking the required steps to formally trademark for themselves the two logos that have, since 1968, symbolised the Beatles company and especially their recordings. From the trademark documentation submitted last month come these two images:

Two trademark applications have been filed with the European Trademarks Office under 14 International Classifications and indicate that Apple Inc. will have control over the use of the logos across a very wide range of products and services including computer hardware, online social networking, mobile phones, musical instruments, games, clothing/headgear, advertising, education and broadcasting – to name just a few. If you really want the full bottle on the trademark story go to Patently Apple – its got more of the actual documentation filed last month and further links…

Its interesting to note that while the Apple Computer logo was inspired by the Beatles, the original Beatles Apple logo in turn was itself directly inspired by a Belgian painter, the surrealist René Magritte (1898-1967). Paul McCartney owns one of his paintings called Le Jeu de Mourre (The game of mora), which dates from 1966:

The Belgian Beatles Society page says that in an interview with Johan Ral in 1993, Paul McCartney recalled:

“….I had this friend called Robert Fraser, who was a gallery owner in London. We used to hang out a lot. And I told him I really loved Magritte. We were discovering Magritte in the sixties, just through magazines and things. And we just loved his sense of humour. And when we heard that he was a very ordinary bloke who used to paint from nine to one o’clock, and with his bowler hat, it became even more intriguing. Robert used to look around for pictures for me, because he knew I liked him. It was so cheap then, it’s terrible to think how cheap they were. But anyway, we just loved him … One day he brought this painting to my house. We were out in the garden, it was a summer’s day. And he didn’t want to disturb us, I think we were filming or something. So he left this picture of Magritte. It was an apple – and he just left it on the dining room table and he went. It just had written across it “Au revoir”, on this beautiful green apple. And I thought that was like a great thing to do. He knew I’d love it and he knew I’d want it and I’d pay him later. […] So it was like wow! What a great conceptual thing to do, you know. And this big green apple, which I still have now, became the inspiration for the logo. And then we decided to cut it in half for the B-side!”

That story seems to be true because as recently as last year, Paul McCartney himself told it again to David Jenkins at the Telegraph newspaper in London.

Taking Magritte for inspiration, the Apple record labels were designed by a fellow named Gene Mahon, an advertising agency designer. The Beatles Collection website has a great summary of how this all came about:

“[It was Gene Mahon who] proposed having different labels on each side of the record. One side would feature a full apple that would serve as a pure symbol on its own without any text. All label copy would be printed on the other side’s label, which would be the image of a sliced apple. The white-colored inside surface of the sliced apple provided a good background for printing information.
The idea of having no print on the full apple side was abandoned when EMI advised Apple that the contents of the record should appear on both sides of the disc for copyright and publishing reasons. Although Mahon’s concept was rejected for legal (and perhaps marketing) reasons, his idea of using different images for each side of the record remained. Mahon hired Paul Castell to shoot pictures of green, red and yellow apples, both full and sliced. The proofs were reviewed by the Beatles and Neil Aspinall, with the group selecting a big green Granny Smith apple to serve as the company’s logo. A sliced green apple was picked for B side. Alan Aldridge provided the green script perimeter print for labels [on UK, EU and Australian releases – this does not appear on US labels] and, in all likelihood, the script designation on the custom record sleeve.”

12 thoughts on “Apple Moves to Finally Own the Original Apple Logo

  1. Some of my earliest music memories involve hold an LP with a whole apple one once side and half an apple on the B side.

    This story makes me sad.


  2. Paul Castell was my neighbour in Putney in the 1960s. One night he came to my door asking if he could borrow an apple to photograph. I gave him a big Australian Granny Smith, which he duly returned, uncut. He later told me the photo had been used as the Beatles’ record label. By then I’d eaten the apple.


    • Nelson, I’d love to find out more about this please, we are running an exhibition telling stories about the apple from around the world – and Apple Records will be one of those stories which I am just starting to research. We particularly like to add odd first-hand aspects to our stories and yours would be just the ticket if you would be willing to discuss further please.


  3. How can Apple Computers (who nicked their name from the Beatles’ Apple anyway!) ‘own’ something that has existed since 1968, and way before they did?!

    Apple Mac is just like Disney, Warners, and the rest of them… Corporate raiders.
    They’re not satisfied with what they’ve got (Apple Mac, that is), they also want to steal from The Beatles! What a bunch of bastards!


  4. This is not much of a big deal as the agreement licenses the exclusive use back to Apple Corps. It’s what Apple Corps got paid for the transfer that would be the juicy bit but there’s no doubt this was a good deal for both sides. Although everyone has a negative take on the Apple vs Apple, it wss actually very healthy for The Beatles side. In the UK, by 1991, the use of the trademark, following the final settlements on Beatles & Co between themselves, had declined to the point where Apple Computer were trying to take over the trademark surreptitiously. I speak from good knowledge because it was when I arrived in London to visit Apple without having brought their phone number, that I became the person to discover, via Directory of Enquiries, that there was more than one Apple Corps Ltd in London. The new one is now known as Corps Business Ltd and was a company Apple had set up to provide training in the use of their software.
    When I mentioned this upon arrival at The Beatles’ HQ, there was incredulity followed by swift action that took the trademark back into fullest use. Yes…I am claiming some credit for the reactivation of Apple from the Apple EP on…there was an absolute necessity to have new product bearing the logo to replace EMI versions of the records which no longer had it. Otherwise, Apple Computer could have claimed it was now theirs through its non-use (trademarks MUST be used).
    It was a stitch in time because there was a standing dispute on Apple Computer’s introduction of a music chip to their computers and that was won by Apple Corps a while later with very substantial damages awarded. All of this was being undermined by the non-use and Apple Computer clearly felt in the final stages of a coup when they formed a training company with their opponent’s name.

    I do feel that Neil Apsinall would have successfully had overturned on appeal the most recent decision about the trademark (on iTunes) which shocked everyone when it went in Apple Computer’s favour. However, by then, he was somewhat missing the point. Apple Computer were about to become bigger than Microsoft and the move to settle was already something wanted by Paul McCartney and Steve Jobs because of their burgeoning personal friendship.
    The transfer of ownership of the marks takes a whole area of legaldom out of the Apple Corps bag. They no longer need trademark lawyers and are no longer most of the time a legal office. They’re back full-time to projects in records and films and, as we’ve seen, the frequency of these has increased and is set to continue. There are many many projects already in the pipeline.


    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your well-informed and well-considered comments on Apple Corps and the to-and-fro, back and forth legal battle with Apple Inc. Your personal role in uncovering a potential Apple Inc coup on the Beatles brand are fascinating. It seems you have a close association with what is planned by Apple Corps for the future (“There are many many projects already in the pipeline.”). Care to give us any insights?


      • I’m sorry if that was the impression I gave. No I’m not currently an insider to any imminent plans although there weren’t too many surprises when I last was and some of those have already been out. Essentially you could say that everything that we’re still waiting on is piped and awaiting scheduling and that includes the end of old catalogue remastering as well as more ‘new’ catalogue a la Yellow Submarine Songtrack.
        There are some top-secret plans as well known only to the project personnel.

        As I say, none of this is unknown so I’m sorry I can’t offer anything.


      • The American let it be alBUM used a RED APPLE because it was a contract between Apple/Capitol and UA records .


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