What’s in a brand name? Billions of dollars if it happens to include a rather famous Apple

What do apples and goldfish have in common? Big money.

I went to the Royal Albert Hall (London) last night to see the tribute band, Bootleg Beatles. It’s highly recommended for anyone who likes the back catalogue, very well done, great performance.

Sadly for me I started thinking about brands and what came first, the chicken or the egg? Was it The Beatles or Steve Jobs?

apple_logoThe Beatles set up Apple Corps (aka Apple Records) in 1968 and their logo was an apple, funnily enough.

Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne were the founders of their version of Apple in April 1976, incorporated as Apple Computer Inc in January 1977 and, eventually, changed to the simple Apple Inc in January 2007.

Oh, and their logo is also an apple.

Steve Jobs would have been 13 when The Beatles Apple Corps was formed and he would have been just 21 when Apple Computer was formed. So it must be a pretty safe bet to assume Mr. Jobs was a Beatles fan as his formative years were when the band had taken the US by storm.

This can’t be a coincidence surely?

Well there have been 30 years of legal wrangling dating back to 1980 when George Harrison saw a magazine ad for Apple Computer when Steve and his mates were just four years into their venture. Agreements were made and then breached, on and off, so the long and winding road of legal to-and-fro continued.

UnknownIn 1991 a new agreement was made and Apple Corps were paid $30m by Apple Inc., giving Apple Corps exclusive rights to use the apple trademark for the record business.

However 14 years later back to court with more legal proceedings claiming the new iTunes, only available in the US, was in breach of the 1991 agreement.

The Beatles’ legal team lost that one. And so it went on and on.

The complexity of the parties involved – EMI, Apple Corps, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, widows of Harrison and Lennon, Apple Inc., – dragged this on until November 2010 when finally The Beatles catalogue becomes available on iTunes.

One I was close to, on a much smaller level, but equally litigious was around an image of a goldfish, from an apple to a goldfish.

Our agency worked with Wolff Olins and others on the development of a new credit card in the 1990s which was named Goldfish.

The advertising launch was fronted by Billy Connolly. The brand was launched nationally at great expense and one of the card holder benefits was the choice of images of a goldfish on the card. Shortly after the launch the new company was hit with a writ for breach of intellectual property. The property in question was an image of a goldfish that the complainant asserted was a direct lift of an image they used as part of their corporate ID.

Unknown-2It was an identical image, very uncanny and, without doubt, exactly the same. Although it had nothing to do with the complainant’s business name or products (it was just a random image), they ended up with an out of court settlement that was rumoured to be a seven figure number.

Just goes to show how intellectual property can be worth protecting. Must be great for lawyers as the arguments go around in circles; I can just imagine groups of highly-paid lawyers with magnifying glasses looking at images of goldfish!

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.