Swiss Railway Says Apple Copied Clock Design for iOS 6 App
One month after Apple Inc. took Samsung Electronics Co. to court for infringing its designs, Apple is now accused of appropriating the look of the Swiss Federal Railways iconic clock for use in the iPads default clock app in the newly launched iOS 6 operating system.
The clock, which was designed by Swiss engineer Hans Hilfiker in 1944, is used in station clocks throughout many European railway systems. The Swiss Federal Railway holds both the copyright and trademark rights to the clock, according to railway spokesperson Daniele Pallechi.
We were proud to see our iconic clock used by Apple, but we were surprised they did not contact us for permission, he told CorpCounsel.com.
The railway has contacted Apple about its failure to obtain permission to use the clock design on the iPad and is hoping it can reach a licensing agreement with the Cupertino, California-based company, Pallechi said. The Mondaine Group, a Swiss watch manufacturer, currently holds the exclusive license to make clocks and wristwatches based on the classic and minimalist design of the railway clocks.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment, but it appears a third-party Swiss Railway Clock app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touchsold by a company called Fegihas been available on iTunes since 2009.
The clock design, which has become a symbol for the Swiss proclivity for precision and punctuality, uses black dashes for numbers and a red second hand with a circle at its tip. So distinctive is the design, it was included in an exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2002.
It is iconic and very important to us, Pallechi said. It has come to be known worldwide as a symbol of the Swiss railway system. The design of Apples iPad clock app appears to be identical to the Hilfiker clock face. Pallecchi said he could not comment on whether the Swiss Federal Railway might bring a lawsuit against Apple if talks fail, noting that the company hoped to find a solution.
The Swiss railway and Mondaine could go after Apple for infringement on trade dress, claiming the technology companys use of its clock face dilutes the uniqueness of its mark, said Christopher Carani, an attorney with McAndrews, Held & Malloy, who has no connection to any of the parties involved in this issue.
Design is becoming increasingly important to companiesespecially in a global market, he said. Companies are investing more in design because it transcends language, and they are therefore willing to spend more to protect it as a form of intellectual property.
Apple sued Samsung in federal court in California, alleging the Korean company infringed the design of its iPhone and iPad. Last month, the jury hearing the case agreed with Apple and awarded the company $1.05 billion in damages.