Apple has made a big deal over Samsung copying their patents, up to the point of fighting nasty lawsuits in multiple countries. But clearly they don’t see anything wrong with copying other companies’ ideas.
This past week Apple released iOS6, and among the new features was a redesigned clock app. As you can see from the image at right, the new clock has a distinct design with a red second hand, a number less face, and simply black minute and hour hands.
And as you can also see from the image at right, Apple’s new clock bears a striking resemblance to an existing clock design. Guess what? Apple didn’t license the design.
The design was originally developed for the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) over 60 years ago and is widely regarded as award winning minimalist design.
The minimalist clock, which is emblematic of Switzerland’s tradition of punctuality, was designed for the national rail service to help travelers 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.
The SBB is not exactly happy that Apple copied their clock. “SBB isn’t hurt, but proud that this icon of watch design is being used by a globally active and successful business,” SBB spokesman Reto Kormann said, adding “We now have to agree on the legal framework between SBB and Apple.”
The SBB still holds the trademark for the emblematic clock designed by Zurich-born engineer Hans Hilfiker in 1944, and they have licensed it to the Mondaine Group, a clock maker which has been making clocks and wristwatches for consumers based on the design. They too plan to challenge Apple. “The app is pretty much identical to our Mondaine watch,” Andre Bernheim, the company’s co-owner, told Reuters. “Three companies together – Apple, SBB and Mondaine – can together achieve something positive. We’ll see how this all ends up.”
Apple had no comment on the matter, though I expect the thought “whoops” is likely winding its way through Cupertino.