Does Apple really know what time it is?

When iOS 6 was released last month, astute railroad buffs and timepiece aficionados alike couldn’t help but notice the spartan yet elegant design of the clock app Apple was now featuring in its iPad. The clock interface, as the Gadgetmac blog pointed out, was a dead ringer for the award-winning design seen in railway stations throughout Switzerland.

Only one problem: apparently Apple had not received permission from Swiss railway operator SBB to use its trademark design.

It seemed a particularly egregious move for a company notorious for going after others who rip off its own copyrighted and patented designs, a fact not lost on Samsung, which recently got its own clock cleaned in federal court by Apple’s legal gunslingers.

After SBB threatened legal action against Apple, it now appears the two companies have patched things up.

“For the use of the clockface on certain Apple devices such as iPads and iPhones, the parties have negotiated an arrangement that enables Apple to use the SBB station clock under a license agreement,’’ said SBB, which holds the trademark for the 1944 design by Zurich-born engineer Hans Hilfiker.

Details of the agreement were not disclosed.

But one party remains miffed. Mondaine Group, the company that has held the license since 1986 to make clocks and wristwatches for consumers based on the design classic, said it was not involved in the deal Apple made with SBB.

“As an exclusive licensee, we are surprised to hear about the licensing agreement between SBB and Apple,” Ronnie Bernheim, the company’s co-owner, told Reuters, but declined to say whether he would take any further action.

More legal action against Apple? A new agreement, perhaps?

Only time will tell.

 

 

 

 

Patrick May Patrick May (316 Posts)

With more than 30 years on the front line of daily American journalism, I'm currently a staff writer with the San Jose Mercury News, covering Apple and writing people-centric business stories from Silicon Valley.