While recent events have made Apple (News - Alert) particularly famous for protecting its intellectual property, it's kind of a surprise to see that Apple has found itself in hot water over the clock program in the iPad Clock app. The Swiss Federal Railway has recently announced plans to sue Apple for doing a bit of their own "slavish copying" in the form of the Railway's iconic clock design.
The clock in question, also referred to as the railway clock, which was originally designed by Hans Hilfiker, has been described as not only an icon for the Railway itself, but also for Switzerland, which is famous for its clocks among other things. The clock's image has been widely licensed in the past, even to the point where replicas of the clock are sold as watches under the watchmaker brand Mondaine, and the image is actually both trademarked and copyrighted by the Railway.
Apple, however, is not one of those with a legitimate license, and when asked about the copyright issue, Apple's Switzerland division reportedly referred those asking to the corporate headquarters in the United States.
Indeed, looking at the clock app, and an image of the railway clock together reveals an incredible level of similarity. There are no numbers on either design, with the numbers replaced by thick black hash marks on a white field, and smaller black hash marks between the two. The second hands possess the same coloring and large circle at their end. There are few significant differences between the two, including the removal of a logo found on the Swiss clock on Apple's design, slightly elongated minute hash marks, and a small pin hub holding down the second hand on Apple's design.
The Railway is reportedly looking for "...a legal, as well as a financial solution" for the problem, which will likely mean lawsuit unless Apple wants to settle. It's difficult to imagine Apple settling here, however, because the problem would likely be quickly fixed with just some modification to the design that would make it sufficiently distinctive to allow it to go out unfettered.
Some have suggested that Apple simply pull the iPad Clock app in Switzerland, or attempt to pursue a lawsuit on the strength of the fact that the design is "available to the public." Conversely, Apple could simply pay a settlement involving back licensing fees and prevent trouble altogether.
Only time will tell just what tactic Apple will actually use in the face of its newest copyright issue, but it will have plenty of possibilities at its disposal. Having just seen Apple wage a massive multinational lawsuit pursuing Samsung (News - Alert) for doing something similar to what Apple is alleged to have done to the Swiss Federal Railways is a bit unsettling, but chances are this one will be resolved much more quickly than the Samsung fight was.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman