Apple Did Not Copy Swiss Railway Clocks

The absence of a logo makes all the difference.


Some people are asking whether Apple copied the Swiss Railway's clock design for its iOS  6 app. The question is important for at least two reasons: One, the Swiss clock's design is licenced; second, Apple is conscious about the originality of its clocks.

The story from September 20th is short: Someone at the Swiss Federal Railway noticed that "their clock", which the Swiss see at railway stations, is almost the same as the clock app on iOS 6. The monetary twist is that the design is licenced out to watchmakers. The Railway and one watchmaker are both hopeful of getting some money from Apple.

But there's more, as CNET  reports: "In 2009, Apple sent a letter of rejection to ... app developer Tapbots ... saying the clock icon the company used in its pocket converter application looked too much like the icon used in Apple's own telephone app. Tapbots changed its design...". So for now, it looks like Gizmodo is right in saying Apple "shamelessly ripped off" a piece of Swiss tradition (see the pics of the two clocks side by side at that link). In fact, a Reuters report says the New York Museum of Modern Art and the Design Museum in London consider the Swiss Railway clock an example of "outstanding 20th-century design".

The primary difference in the Apple version appears to be the absence of a logo, which some of the originals have. You could argue that the copied clock is a real-world object, visible to anyone in Switzerland. But the Railway licenses the design out.

The Swiss are peaceable people, though. So we don't expect anything to come out of this.

Should Apple sue the Swiss Federal Railway for copying its style of patent violation complaints? Please comment below.

TAGS: Apple, iOS, Apps, Weird, RMR