iPad World Clock: As Seen on Swiss Trains

In the competitive world of the smartphone, Apple is not a stranger to claims of copyright infringement.  This normally comes from competitors that are looking at patenting specific design and software elements in an effort to have something unique in the growing marketplace.  It is not usually brought by foreign government agencies.

Now that the iOS 6 is being released for the iPad, people may be noticing the nice new clock that is adding a multi-panel worldview.  It is exactly this that the Swiss Federal Railways has brought issue with publicly.  The SBB, which is its acronym in German, is claiming that the new iPad design is taken directly from Swiss Railway Station Clock.  This new feature takes the images of the clock face that has become a branded icon of the Swiss railway system, as well as the country’s place in the creation of timepieces, and uses it as the display in its multiclock panels.  This feature is really only available on the iPad as the iPhone uses a different design that is more suited to the smaller screen.

Though SBB acknowledged the compliment that Apple gave them by taking their design, legal action could still be in the works.  The design of the clocks are so similar and permission was not given, violating the very basic elements of the copyright.  This could end up being debatable when it finally lands in court since the minimalist design of the SBB clock as well as its iconic status.  The argument could be made, and has been made in other venues, that the image of the SBB’s clock is so iconic that it has actually become the general idea of what a clock appears as in the world stage.  The issue could be further complicated by the fact that this is a digital representation of a clock and is not actually for sale as such, though there is really no finite way to determine exactly how court proceedings will play out.

 

The real question here is why Apple would choose to appropriate this design without even a request.  It would be easy enough to alter the design, and since most people in visual marketing at Apple have an international sensibility it would be difficult to claim that this was simply a mistake.  SBB does actually sell clocks sharing this visual format, but its questionable how much of that design can be said to be the same when it is lifted and put into a different presentation such as the iPad.

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