A jazz trumpeter has taken on Apple Music’s trademark overreach, winning a long-standing battle with the tech giant in a US appeals court.
Apple lost a bid to register part of a federal trademark for “Apple Music” this week after a US appeals court ruled in favor of a jazz musician who challenged the company’s application.
The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit allowed trumpeter Charlie Bertini to block Apple’s bid for a federal Apple Music trademark covering live performances, arguing that the name would cause confusion with his “Apple Jazz” branding he has used since 1985.
The court rejected Apple’s argument that it had priority over Bertini’s trademark rights based on its ownership of a trademark through the Beatles’ music label Apple Corps Ltd.
“Perhaps this decision will also help other small companies to protect their trademark rights,” said Bertini’s attorney, who, alongside Bertini and his brother James, is pleased with the decision after “a long and difficult struggle.”
Apple launched its streaming service in 2015, applying for a federal “Apple Music” trademark the same year, which would cover several categories of music and entertainment services. Bertini opposed the application, with even the company agreeing that Apple’s trademark would likely confuse consumers.
But a US Trademark Office tribunal ruled in Apple’s favor in 2021, agreeing with the company’s argument that it had earlier rights to the name based on a 1968 “Apple” trademark for sound recordings purchased from the Beatles’ Apple Corps in 2007.
That decision has now been reversed unanimously by a Federal Circuit panel, which said Apple could not “tack on” its trademark rights to live performances through the Apple Corps trademark for sound recordings — a different classification of goods.
“Tacking a mark for one good or service does not grant priority for every other good or service in the trademark application,” says the court.
Representatives for Apple have yet to respond to media requests for comment.