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Swiss Railway: Apple's Using Its Clock Design Without Permission 274

Posted by timothy
from the always-a-good-time-to-borrow-clever-designs dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Apple received a lot of criticism during the Apple/Samsung litigation this past Summer as folks deemed it absurd that Apple was able to patent things such as icon design and the overall form factor of a smartphone. Well as it turns out, it appears that Apple has engaged in some copying of its own in the form of the new clock icon design used in iOS 6 on the iPad- a rather ironic turn of events given that Apple railed against Samsung for copying its own iOS icons. Specifically, the clock icon in iOS 6 on the iPad is a blatant copy of a Hans Hilfiker design to which both the trademark and copyright is owned by the Swiss Federal Railways service."
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Swiss Railway: Apple's Using Its Clock Design Without Permission

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  • by recoiledsnake (879048) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @12:14PM (#41429193)
  • not that it is especially wrong for this: everyone steal from everyone, and then improves on it. this is how creation works

    which tells us how useless and ignorant intellectual property, as a concept, is

    you may ask then how does the solitary inventor protect his <strike>invention</strike> incremental improvement, standing on the shoulders of others, from being ripped off by large players?

    there are a number of legal ways to do this. but if you think the current system is anything but a joke that protects ONLY those large players, and consists of ridiculous wasteful absurd legal posturing games between large players where only lawyers benefit, you are an idiot. the game currently is: he with the largest legion of lawyers wins. that's it, that's the whole game

    it's absurdity, and the system is profoundly broken

    • If violating a patent is really a form of property theft, then the police (Federal, in this case) should be taking stolen IP reports. And dispatching officers to apprehend the culprits and recover the stolen property.

      Just like with stolen cars*, the priority for each case isn't assigned based on the wealth or status of the complainant. A shitbox Honda gets the same attention as a Bentley. Nobody insists on you hiring your own recovery agents and attorneys to get your car back. That's the job of law enforce

    • by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @12:59PM (#41429531)
      The system wasn't nearly as bad as it was until the first rulings that "on a computer" was novel. "one click" had been done for thousands of years before it was patented "on a computer". It was previously called "running a tab". Most "on a computer" patents are similarly idiotic. Look and feel patents are a violation of the idea of innovation. Arrangement of a home/start page isn't a technical innovation, and should be denied in all patent applications as a copyright issue (if anything, not saying the copyright claims should be successful, but that it shouldn't be a patent issue at all).

      Incremental improvements have been shown to be simultaneous often through history, with multiple places claiming the first airplane, helicopter, recording device or transmitting device of various kinds. If two people can invent the same thing at the same time with no collaboration, what does that say about the uniqueness of the invention/discovery? The current theories on invention are that such things are inevitable, given the demands and present tech. The problems are that the available tech isn't sufficient, or that there is no need to be filled.

      Things like the computer and printing press were invented by need and tech. Babbage would have been the undisputed inventor of computers with a 1960's style punch card system, if only the machine-works were sufficient for the tolerances he required, or the electrical tech was sufficiently advanced for him to attempt that route. Since neither was sufficient, he is a theoretical inventor of an adding machine (that would have worked, but didn't at the time). So the "discovery" of computers was left for a later date. And was solved in multiple ways by multiple different people over overlapping periods (mostly over WWII, with the US pioneering electrical-based systems, Germans getting mechanical systems done well, and the English doing whatever they could, based on their allies and captured enemy tech.
    • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:07PM (#41429591)

      not that it is especially wrong for this: everyone steal from everyone, and then improves on it. this is how creation works

      There is an Academic concept of plagiarism. This is very interesting because it has nothing to do with copying; academics are supposed to copy. Someone who fails to report what their predecessors said is treated with more contempt. Plagiarism, however, is worse. It is taking other people's words and ideas without crediting them. That gives you some idea what is wrong here.

      which tells us how useless and ignorant intellectual property, as a concept, is

      For "Intellectual property" as a phrase and a grouping you are probably right, but we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are specific kinds of intellectual property, trademarks are one of them, which have real value. Without clear ownership of names it's very difficult for companies to build a reputation. Without reputation there is no difference between a cheap forced labour made rip off job like an iPhone and a serious communication device like an EADS Tetra terminal. If you ended up in with your communication device packing up just because you put it sprayed it with water to stop it melting you would be rightly upset when you found out someone had given you an inferior product by accident.

      With the swiss railways, there is serious value here. When you buy a watch endorsed by them [amazon.com] it means something. This is not some random quartz knock off job. Proper precision engineering. Think of the famous joke:

      Q: You are standing in Bern railway station; you see a train coming in; you look at your watch and see that the train is late; What are the two possible explanations?
      A1) it's not a Swiss watch.
      A2) it's not a Swiss train.

      In this particular case there are series of design elements which are completely different from a normal clock; Lack of numbers; a bright red circle on the second hand. A very plain white disk. These are things which are original from Swiss railways and that nobody used before them. If you exactly copy these then you are basically trying to make off the reputation of the Swiss railway. This is something which can reasonably be protected; merely by changing from a bright red to a blue triangle you can copy the concept (a clock which emphasises the change of every second) without copying the design.

      Now you might ask; "why does the rtfa-troll support Swiss Railways here and not Apple there". Well firstly; I'm not supporting them for a "beeelion dollars" like Apple wants. I'm supporting them for a couple of hundred quid and an apology. Secondly; pick a random Samsung Galaxy S vs iPhone comparison [youtube.com]. Have a look at the way that key design elements (the bare metal surround on the side of the phone) are different. Anything which clearly distinguishes one product from another should be enough. The key standard is "designed so as to be easily confused with" not "designed to pay homage to".

      It would be a shame if the IP cowboys forced us to throw away all of the things that are valuable in trademarks or secrets just because they abuse patents and copyright.

  • by Squeeself (729802) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @12:32PM (#41429333)
    You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - the most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia" - but only slightly less well-known is this: "Never go against the Swiss when watches are on the line!" Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @12:36PM (#41429357) Homepage

    Here's a Swiss railroad clock in its native habitat, at Cornavin station. [worldradio.ch] There are clocks at regular intervals along platforms, and the second hands are, of course, in sync. It's part of the Swiss Railways branding - their stations tend to have a large, if not excessive, number of those clocks.

    It's a famous design. A home-size version is available from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. [momastore.org] (It does not, however, sync to an external time source.)

  • by NEDHead (1651195) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @12:47PM (#41429433)

    Apple today announced that they have been granted a patent for using other peoples' designs. iCopy will be featured in all of their future products.

  • A sidenote... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Misagon (1135) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:18PM (#41429681)

    Is there anybody but me who thinks that Apple should have made the "clock" look like a watch instead of a clock?
    Watches are what people are using the iPhone clock for anyway...

  • So it's okay for Apple to label Samsung a copycat for creating icons that look similar to iPhone icons, but when you rip off someone else's design VERBATIM you're not? This company has become so brazen that they'll now plagiarize without any attribution or compensation.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:25PM (#41429735)
    Now that Apple's misconduct has been revealed will Apple do what they wanted done to Samsung and withdraw their products voluntarily from Europe? If they don't they Apple are hypocrites, and that's not cool.
    • I'm pretty critical of some of these ios 6 screw ups, but your analogy is off. The clock app isn't exactly competing with the physical clocks sold with the Swiss Railway face. That being said, yes, they should have either licensed the design or just come up with a new clock face. Oh, look, the iPod Nano already had a bunch. This issue is just a facepalm compared to the Maps fiasco.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:48PM (#41429853)

    This is a clear-cut case of blatant copying of a design, Apple should just admit it, pay up and move on.

    • This is a clear-cut case of blatant copying of a design, Apple should just admit it, pay up and move on.

      Move on to what? More litigation and cheating?

    • by jbolden (176878)

      I agree with you. In a few weeks they release another clock face, admit this was inadvertent and try and settle for a small sum. If anything by paying for a look and feel violation strengthens their hand on the lawsuits they do care about.

      • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @03:20PM (#41430575) Journal

        I don't think it was inadvertent - they likely picked that design because it is actually good and in line with Apple's general design policy. More likely that either it was done by some designer on his own who did not mention his source of inspiration, and did not realize that it could be trademarked or otherwise protected.

        Either way it's highly unlikely that the lack of attribution or payment. was deliberate. As far as I know, Swiss Railway does actually permit the use of the shape in many circumstances, often even for free - and it's not like Apple can't pay for the privilege even if they ask for some money.

        • by jbolden (176878)

          that's what I meant by inadvertent, the designer didn't realize. And yes I agree that assuming the fee is small Apple can just pay. But if Swiss Railway wants a lot then they just pay a small amount and switch the design.

  • Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WinstonWolfIT (1550079) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:50PM (#41429867)

    Swiss Patent Office workers used to make such better use of their time.

  • Culture of cheating (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tough Love (215404) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:01PM (#41429929)

    Like Microsoft before it, Apple's corporate DNA is built around a culture of cheating.

  • I recognized the clock face instantly after installing iOS 6 becuase I have one of the official wall clocks and one of the wtaches from MOMA. Yeah, I sort of like the design. I figured Apple licensed it. Oops.

    I like my Apple stuff, but some of the larger shareholders need to call for a shareholder meeting to find out WTF is going on here with this and the maps. FFS when you are one of the most watched corporations in the world, by both your fanbots and haterbots, do you even get close to doing things like t

  • by Gonoff (88518) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @03:20PM (#41430585)

    If Apple does something, it, by definition, is original. They cannot be copying. If you accuse them of it, you obviously do not know what the word means.

    If you are a competitor, you are copying their stuff. If you say you are not because you were using the idea 10 years before Apple did, you still do not correctly understand the word.

    Copying means doing anything that may affect their profits - nothing else. You could make a sperical phone with 32 hexagonal buttons, a crescent shaped screen, had a UI based on Lcars and Apple would still sue you if it was faster, cheaper and easier to use and outsold them.

  • It will just round all the rectangular hour marks, presto, patent complying version.
  • Apple should pay $1,000,000,000 for damages.
  • Looks bad for SBB (Score:2, Informative)

    by Udo Schmitz (738216)
    Here's the registration for the trademark:

    https://www.swissreg.ch/srclient/faces/jsp/trademark/sr300.jsp?language=de&section=tm&id=512830 [swissreg.ch]

    It's a three dimensional trademark, only for clocks/watches so the two dimensional picture in a phone should be in the clear. And they forgot to put a color photograph in their application, so I guess the color of the second hand may not be protected. And copyright? On a clock? Good luck with that.

    • by MHolmesIV (253236)

      Except it is a clock in the phone, and if you watch the shadow on the second hand, it's clearly in three dimensions. And it's not copyright, it's trade dress, exactly what Apple sued Samsung for, with the difference being that Samsung's designs weren't nearly as exact a copy as this is.

  • Apple is clearly in the wrong. The should

    1. Apologize
    2. Pay for the use of the design

    The question is, how much is the design worth to Apple? Before you say "1 bazillion simoleans" bear in mind we're talking about the clock design for the iPad's Clock app. For, oh I don't know, somewhere between $100,000 and $1,000,000 they can push a whole new app with a non-infringing design. So that puts an upper bound on what Apple is likely to agree to.

    You're the lawyer that has to advise Tim Cook how much to pay. What

  • The article seems to imply that the unique feature is an operational, not a visual, one:

    In 1953 Hilfiker added a red second hand, which pauses briefly at the top of each minute "to enable trains to depart punctually", as he put it.

    For copyright, it's a very slippery slope - and not a slam dunk: A clock with no numbers, as shown (but without the ball), is clearly in the public domain, having existed prior to [name your favorite PD date]. The aspect ratio of the marks and the relative size of the red circle

  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Monday September 24, 2012 @05:25AM (#41434697) Journal

    He who lives by the silly lawsuit, dies by the silly lawsuit.

"No job too big; no fee too big!" -- Dr. Peter Venkman, "Ghost-busters"

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