By Blake Brittain
(Reuters) – Apple Inc lost a bid to register part of a federal trademark for “Apple Music” on Tuesday after a U.S. appeals court ruled for a jazz musician who challenged the tech giant’s application.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected Apple’s argument that it had priority over trumpeter Charlie Bertini’s “Apple Jazz” trademark rights based on its ownership of an earlier trademark from the Beatles’ music label Apple Corps Ltd.
The court allowed Bertini to block Apple’s bid for a federal Apple Music trademark covering live performances, one of several trademark uses Apple sought to secure.
Bertini’s attorney, his brother James Bertini, said they were pleased with the decision after a “long and difficult struggle.”
“Perhaps this decision will also help other small companies to protect their trademark rights,” the attorney said.
Representatives for Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Apple launched its streaming service in 2015 and applied the same year for a federal “Apple Music” trademark covering several categories of music and entertainment services. Bertini opposed the application, arguing the name would cause confusion with the “Apple Jazz” branding he had used since 1985 to advertise concerts.
Both sides agreed that Apple’s mark would likely confuse consumers. But a U.S. Trademark Office tribunal ruled for Apple in 2021, finding it had earlier rights to the name based on a 1968 “Apple” trademark for sound recordings it purchased from Apple Corps in 2007.
A unanimous Federal Circuit panel reversed the decision to dismiss Bertini’s opposition Tuesday. It said Apple could not “tack” its trademark rights for live performances to the Apple Corps trademark for sound recordings, a different category of goods.
“Tacking a mark for one good or service does not grant priority for every other good or service in the trademark application,” the court said.
The case is Bertini v. Apple Inc, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, No. 21-2301.
(Reporting by Blake Brittain in Washington; Editing by David Bario)