Apple apparently ripped off iPad clock design from Swiss Rail Company

Apple is no stranger to suing others who rip off its designs, but it seems that even Apple itself isn't immune from using the work of others without permission.

Apple received a lot of criticism during the Apple/Samsung litigation this past summer as folks deemed it absurd that Apple was able to patent things such as icon design and the overall form factor of a smartphone. While the nuances of the case were obviously more complex, the trial did shed some light on a patent system that many people feel needs to be reworked.

As we all know, Apple emerged victorious in its suit against Samsung, with a jury awarding Apple $1.05 billion in damages as a result of Samsung's rather obvious copying of Apple's software and hardware designs.

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Well as it turns out, it appears that Apple has engaged in some copying of its own in the form of the new clock icon design used in iOS 6 on the iPad - a rather ironic turn of events given that Apple railed against Samsung for copying its own iOS icons.

What you're looking at below and on the left is Apple's new clock design. On the right is a Hans Hilfiker design to which both the trademark and copyright is owned by the Swiss Federal Railways service.

What's more, the design of the clock has been licensed by the Mondaine Group since 1986 and has been used in the design of innumerable clocks and wristwatches. The design has even been included as an example of outstanding 20th-century design at both the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Design Museum in London.

The minimalist clock, which is emblematic of Switzerland's tradition of punctuality, was designed for the national rail service to help travellers to check the time at a distance as they hurried to catch their trains.

In 1953 Hilfiker added a red second hand, which pauses briefly at the top of each minute "to enable trains to depart punctually," as he put it.

The second hand with a circle at its end is based on the device a station manager on the platform would wave for a train's departure, and SBB holds the rights to the design.

Needless to say, the Swiss Federal Railways service (SBB) isn't too pleased with Apple's actions.

Speaking to Reuters, SBB spokesman Reto Kormann said that the two companies need to come to some sort of legal agreement regarding Apple's use of the iconic design.

"SBB isn't hurt," Kormann clarified, "but proud that [this] icon of watch design is being used by a globally active and successful business." Still, the company hopes to reach a financially and legally viable solution with Apple, likely through a licensing agreement of some sort.

Meanwhile, Mondaine Group co-owner Andrew Bernheim said that "The app is pretty much identical to our Mondaine watch" and that the three companies must all work together to come to a mutually agreeable arrangement regarding the design.

Last we heard, SBB indicated that they have, in fact, already contacted Apple and "told them that the rights for this clock belong to us."

It'll be interesting to see a) how Apple responds and b) how long it takes them to respond.

via Reuters and Washington Post

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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