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.”