Apple Accused Of 'Violating The Rights' Of Iconic Swiss Railway Clock

from the live-by-the-sword... dept

Apple is notoriously aggressive when it comes to going after others for supposedly violating its trademarks — often taking it to extreme levels. So it seems noteworthy, as many of you sent in, that the Swiss Railway Service (SBB) is claiming that Apple’s clock app in iOS 6 happens to infringe on a clock design they hold the rights to.

On the left is Apple’s app. On the right, is SBB’s iconic version. While the article above quoted someone from SBB saying that he’s “happy” that Apple used the design, that doesn’t mean that they’re okay with it. They’re not:

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 has a bit of a history of playing fast and loose with the artwork it uses. Remember the story of the iPad background image? And there are plenty of reasons to suggest that Apple should be able to do this. But, considering how aggressive it is in enforcing its own trademarks, you’d think that it would be a lot more careful before doing things like this. Of course, you have to also wonder… if Apple weren’t so aggressive with its own trademarks, would SBB be so insistent on a “legal” and “financial” solution?

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Companies: apple, sbb, swiss railway service

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Comments on “Apple Accused Of 'Violating The Rights' Of Iconic Swiss Railway Clock”

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Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Not defending but really...

Is Apple that “aggressive” in defending it’s trademarks? I am not talking about the patents. But about trademarks. Is Apple doing anything any other company would not do? Trademarks are a different beast than patents. There are rules to keep them enforceable.

Now don’t get me wrong I think that a clock face like the above really should have no way of being trademarked nor should an Apple with a stem on top. But when you add the bite out of it…..

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Re: Not defending but really...

I see all the links below but is that a case of popular bias or a really case of defending a trademark that is above what other companies do? Just because a company is sited on Techdirt about their unreasonable trademark suit does not mean that they do it more than others do.

Provide me with stats not blog entries, because those will always show a bias towards popular companies.

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Not defending but really...

Perception is not reality. Popular products ALWAYS have more trademark disputes than those that are not. Simple logic dictates that. The more popular the product the more likely there are going to be knock-offs that use the same or similar names and other iconic/logo designs.

So the stats I am asking for are simple research. Based on the sales numbers are Apple trademarks more sued than other companies trademarks. Comparing Apples to Apples meaning if Apple sell 100 products sold and sues 5 times that is a 5% number while X company sues only once but on 10 products sold. Which would be a case of 10%.

I think that research will show that Apple sues not more or less than other companies when adjusting for numbers.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Not defending but really...

I think that research will show that Apple sues not more or less than other companies when adjusting for numbers.

While this might be true, I think you’re missing the forest for the trees.

Apple is aggressive in protecting their trademarks. Yet they are also guilty of infringing on other’s trademarks.

Either Apple is being hypocritical, or there’s some problems with how trademark law is being used, or both.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not defending but really...

Apple’s clock is a hell of a lot more ‘similar’ to the existing clock than some of the ‘apple’ trademarks that apple has sued over…

So yes they are that aggressive…. anyone using a round fruit shape that ‘appears’ to be an apple is NOT violating apple’s trademark, but that doesn’t stop them from suing now does it?

So when they STEAL the exact design, I would say they deserve to get hoisted on their own petard…

anon says:


Stats …lol

Apple has used everything from a rounded corner to an oblong to a design that looks similar to an apple, and you want stats, if anything the Swiss were probably not worried about the design being used and on any other day would ignore it , but as the author above mentions they, like millions of others worldwide, have seen Apple go after people for the silliest things so them going after Apple only seems right. Hopefully Apple will see the error of there ways and decide to just settle this for a few billion dollars as they have been using this design since the first iphone. And the clock is a fundamental part of any mobile or tablet as that is how people are telling time these days, mostly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, what makes it special is the red second hand with the red circle at the end. Also the watch isn’t ticking by second but going smoothly around.

In addition: the swiss railways gave their OK to an app developer to put a swiss railway clock into the app store. It costs $ 1 or something. This developer asked for permission first — Apple didn’t!

Anonymous Coward says:

others would probably be more tolerant of Apple using their stuff if Apple were more tolerant of others using their stuff. as it is, Apple seems to think it has the right to ‘steal’ whatever it wants from whomsoever it wants, for free, but can then sue the arse off of everyone for the slightest possibility of something they claim as theirs being used by someone else. let’s face it, the only reason Apple have been so aggressively getting Samsung products banned and removed is because the products are better than what Apple puts out. i seriously wonder whether there would have been so many iphone5’s sold if Apple had’ve had to compete on a level playing field with Samsung?

Rick Smith (profile) says:

Swiss Railway has to do this

or Apple will end up claiming that they created the clock (whole thing not just the design) and will initiate their own court case for infringement, claiming at least a hundred billion in lost sales from all of these clocks being used throughout the world. Also as part of the settlement, we will have to change Swiss to Apple when referring to anything about time; so there will be Apple Watches and Timepieces. Watch out Switzerland or your knife could next.

Don?t bites the Apple or you may be assimilated!!!
(Sorry not sure from which deep recess of my mind this came from, but seemed too good to pass up)

Mike Martinet (profile) says:

It's So Obvious

I see what you mean.

The Apple version has the clock face divided up into hours and minutes with the same “tickmarks” to denote the hours and smaller ones for minutes.

Different length hour and minute hands.

It even copies the whole 12 hours, 60 minutes thing.

How blatant can you get???

Apple, you got some ‘splainin’ to do.

stryx (profile) says:

Apple is safe

The Swiss are just making stuff up. Anyone can see that these are two totally different designs.

Just look a the minute hand. Apple’s glides though the time marks while the Swiss version dredges the outer limits of every last minute. And those hands? The Apple version is even, equitable, and balanced while the Swiss hands swoop around like wildly unbalanced, lethally tapered daggers. As well they should, all the better to slay those turgid stolid bollards the Swiss call minute marks. Apple’s minute marks are arily graceful and full of hope. Which is why the way the second hand lightly caresses the hour and minute marks is so much more sensual compared to the way the Swiss second hand clobbers each hour mark, as if it were trying to beat every hour into submission through sheer dullness.

I mean seriously.

crew says:

Time to check..

Anyone that is arguing that “it’s just a clock!” doesn’t know much about horology in general. I don’t mean that to be derogatory, just stating my opinion that there’s more to it than ticks and shapes.

If Apple had used the dial (face) and hands of a Rolex Submariner – which you might not all know by heart, but would certainly recognize in a lineup – do you think this would be a bigger issue in the public’s eye? Other iconic pairs would be the Panerai Radiomir, Bell & Ross BR01, Omega Seamaster, Movado Museum, among others. Apple would be in hot water if they sourced from those.. wouldn’t they?

Swiss Rail has been using this clock, not just one like it, since the 1940’s. It’s in 3,000 terminals, and the large pip on the red second hand allows for high-visibility from a distance, so that travelers know if their train is ready to depart within the minute.

SBB needs to make an example of Apple, such that something with such rich history doesn’t just get scooped up and claimed by whoever feels like it. Apple went with a design that hasn’t been touched in decades, so that they figured they’d have a viable claim. Don’t call it “just a clock.”

Pete Austin says:

The issue is really about watches

The issue is really about watches, not a few thousand railway clocks. For example follow this link. Apple is taking a design used for upmarket watches and mass-producing it for the same purpose at a very similar size, without paying any license fee. I’d be amazed if this didn’t infringe copyright as well as trademark.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

insanity rant

Just another highlight of why intellectual property is a stupid notion.

Should Apple be able to use this clock icon? Yes!

Should other mobile phone makers be able to use rounded corners on their phones? YES!

Should everyone be allowed to use “one click” purchasing on their websites? YES!

Grocery stores are supposed to be counted in the big pool of jobs supported by “intellectual property”. Aren’t those the places where you can by brand or generic “infringing” products?

IP is just fucknuts crazy now.

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