Opinion Brief

Did Apple rip off a famous Swiss clock's design?

The Swiss Federal Railway alleges that the world's most valuable company stole its signature clock face for iOS 6 — and it wants Apple to pay up

As people fume over Apple's map update to iOS 6, the purveyor of iProducts finds itself in increasingly hot water, and now stands accused of copying the iconic (and trademarked) clocks of the Swiss Federal Railway (see a comparison below). Specifically, iOS 6 on the iPad updated its timekeeping app to a minimal, number-less design that looks awfully similar to the 1944 clock face design seen in train stations all over Switzerland — and the miffed rail service wants a piece of Apple's massive cash pile. Apple's lead designer Jony Ive, an unabashed fan of Braun designer Dieter Rams, has integrated iconic designs in the company's products before, but lately, Apple's made a name for itself as a company that aggressively goes after copycats. Should Apple have to pay up?

Apple clearly stole the design: "What a shameless rip off," says Mario Aguilar at Gizmodo. Just look at the two designs side-by-side. The railway has every right to demand financial restitution for Apple's usage. "Fair is fair," and Apple just won a billion dollars from Samsung for "exactly this kind of copying." Now it's Apple's turn to pay up."Apple totally stole the design of the iOS 6 iPad clock"

But there are differences: They do look alike at first, says Tim Worstall at Forbes. But there are a number of dissimilarities that could work in Apple's favor. First, "the hands on the Swiss clock are slightly tapered while, to the eye at least, the Apple ones seem to be straight bars." On the functional front, the original Swiss clocks have a sweeping (not ticking) second-hand movement to keep time in unison across the country. (Hence the term "Swiss precision.) Apple's clock app in iOS 6 doesn't do this — "another clear difference between the designs.""Apple and that Swiss train watch"

The company has every reason to go after Apple: "Switzerland has long been the source of some of the most iconic watch designs and beautifully intricate timepieces in the world," says Shane McGlaun at Slashgear. The railway service has every right to pursue Apple because it licenses its famous design to watch- and clock-makers worldwide. Apple isn't one of these licensees, and shouldn't be treated any different. With its massive cash reserve, Apple should just bite the bullet in this case and move on."Swiss Federal Railway accuses Apple of copying its clock design"

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