Swiss railway company says Apple copied its clock design for iPad app


This combination of two images shows on the left, in a Sept. 2005 file photo, at Swiss railroad station clock; and on the right, a screen shot taken from an Apple iPad. Switzerland's national rail company is accusing Apple Inc. of stealing the iconic look of its station clocks for the iOS 6 operating system used by iPad mobile devices. (Gaetan Bally/AP)
September 21, 2012

Apple has worked hard to protect its design work, even going to court to safeguard the look and feel of its iPhone and iPad from copycats. But now the national rail company of Switzerland has said that the Cupertino, Calif. company is on the other end of a design scuffle.

The Associated Press reported that the Swiss national rail service claims Apple copied the design of its clocks in a new app that appeared on the iPad in iOS 6.

A spokesman for the Swiss Federal Railways has said that the company is “proud” that Apple used its design but that the company never asked it for permission.

“We’ve approached Apple and told them that the rights for this clock belong to us,” he said in an interview with the AP. He said that the company would like Apple to pay a licensing fee.

The clock face at issue has a white background with black lines where the numbers would be, and a red second hand with a circle on the end.

The rail company has licensed the use of the clock face in the past, including to the watchmaker Mondaine. It sells a wristwatch featuring the design and an “official Swiss station clock” watch at its currency exchange counters and select stations.

The clock design appears in the new Clock app on the iPad, which is a new addition to the device. Users can now use their tablets as a world clock, alarm clock, stopwatch and timer — something that’s already been available on the iPhone.

Apple, which began selling its iPhone 5 in stores Friday, declined to comment on the matter.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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