Swiss Federal Railways accuses Apple of copying its iconic railway clock

“Switzerland’s Schweizerische Bundesbahnen, or Swiss Federal Railway service, has accused Apple of using their iconic clock in its Clock app for iPad without permission, according to a report in the Swiss newspaper Blick,” Jordan Golson reports for MacRumors.

“The clock, designed by Hans Hilfiker, has become an icon of both the Swiss railway and of Switzerland itself. The trademark and copyright for the clock is owned by the Swiss Federal Railways service,” Golson reports.

According to [a Tages-Anzeiger] article: SBB is the sole owner of the trademark and copyright of the railway clock. The railway company will now get in touch with Apple. The aim is a legal, as well as a financial solution. It is not right that one [Apple] simply copies the design.

Apple's Clock app (left). Swiss Railway clock (right).
Apple’s Clock app (left). Swiss Federal Railways clock (right).

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Bad form, Apple. Microsoftian cum Samungish.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Joe Architect” for the heads up.]


            1. You can make a digital painting of a 3D Chunnel going from England to France. You can even have trains coming out of either end, on time.

              You still won’t infringe any patents or copyrights associated with The Chunnel.

              How can it be a copy?

          1. It depends, most things pass into the public domain after a period of time. Things like DaVinci’s paintings pre-date copyright law altogether.

            The Swiss Federal Railways are a government owned corporation. Unless a special exemption was given their logos in law (and that law may or may not be recognized outside Switzerland), they’re public domain to begin with.

            Add numbers and that particular clock face design was used in every school I attended when growing up. Whoop-tee.

      1. Actually, the Apple clock is also Analog. It has tiny springs and gears behind the screen to show the clock. When you close the Clock App, Apple brilliantly swivels the entire gear box and springs toward the back of the phone and pushes another mechanical app into the foreground.

        The menus are tiny cards in a stack that slide out of the deck and position themselves onto the screen in order.

        The compass is a real compass only super miniaturized, and when selected the retina display becomes a powerful magnifying glass so the tiny magnetic compass that you can barely see fills the screen.

        It’s brilliant, truly brilliant.

    1. I wouldn’t. I’d use the Samsung defense.

      First I’d claim that a clock face is not patentable. Then I’d point that:
      A/. The red ball on the end of the second hand is smaller on the Apple clock
      B/. The five minute markers are longer than the Swiss clock
      C/. The five minute markers are thinner than the Swiss clock
      D/. The hour hand is shorter than the Swiss clock
      E/. The hour hand is thinner than the Swiss clock
      F/. The minute hand is shorter than the Swiss clock
      G/. The minute hand is thinner than the Swiss clock
      H/. The Apple clock is devoid of any logo or emblems
      and finally,
      I/. The Apple clock does not have a metal surround bezel

  1. This not quite microsoftian and samsungish, because those clocks is literal topological copy — there are no little hypocritical changes that would make it “different”.

    So it is just blatant incompetence of Apple’s legal/licensing/patenting department.

    But yes, it is really bad and proper license should be arranged.

      1. Yes, thickness differences are artefacts of reproduction, not intentional changes to make those clocks “different”; this is why “topological” term could be applied here. Still blunder; some people could/should be even fired for this.

  2. The red dot? Could be functional.

    The Heavy hour marks? Could be functional.

    The lack of numbers? That looks like styling, but who knows, you could maybe argue it has a basis in improving function (at least in a distance-reading/railway context).

    Taken all together? That’s definitely trade-dress.

    The fact that they’ve successfully registered and have been actively using the trademark? Seems pretty open & shut to me.

    Apple has got to pay up and/or shut it down.

    1. Actually, the Apple clock has the 12 hour at the bottom and the 6 hour at the top. It is not their fault that we are setting the Apple clock 6 hours our of phase to make it look Swiss.

      That’s our fault, not theirs

    1. Easy now… What is good for the goose is good for the gander. No different than rounded corners, black trim etc… if you get my drift.

      Apple will cut them a fat cheque and it will be millions not a million and give everybody a new iPhone 5. 🙂

  3. Video ads are now appearing on MDN pages? VIDEO ADS? Really?

    Come on MDN. The last thing we want to do is to waste limited cellular and WiFi (landline) bandwidth viewing any ads, much less video ads. Sheesh. I’ll boycott these advertisers just to send them a message — they can’t have my bandwidth.

  4. Free rail tokens for every Swiss person for a year.
    Someone loved the design, showed it to the boss but didn’t say it was a copy of artwork. Apple will have to pay for this one. No lawyers just a call from Tim with a sorry and a how much you need.

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