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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 @01:14PM (#41429193)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:16PM (#41429203)

    i have to pay the swiss?

    So I can't make a rectangular phone with rounded edges?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:17PM (#41429215)

    So, I can't make a rectangular box with rounded corners? I have to pay Apple.

    What goes around comes around.

  • by kh31d4r (2591021) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:17PM (#41429219)
    maybe the swiss are just afraid of the lawsuit that apple will throw their way after they patent the design?
  • 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

  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:28PM (#41429285)

    That's nothing. Check out these other iOS Maps fuckups [tumblr.com]. It really is a hilarious way to kill four hours!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:28PM (#41429293)

    Is that the only aspect of the design you noticed? That it has no numbers? No, Apple is making an exact copy of every single visual element of the clock, minus the logo. That's what's wrong.

  • by Calos (2281322) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:31PM (#41429323)

    Yes, because Apple is totally absolved from trying that idiotic stunt, just because they didn't get away with it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:39PM (#41429375)

    Is that the only aspect of the design you noticed? That it has no numbers? No, Apple is making an exact copy of every single visual element of the clock, minus the logo. That's what's wrong.

    Look, seriously, give it up. That's an Apple fanboy you're arguing with. Strawmanning is the LEAST of their problems. You're never going to get through to him. Best to just let him be and watch with amusement as he repeatedly brings up double standards between The Word Of Jobs and the rest of the planet.

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @01:59PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:01PM (#41429545)

    Yes, because Apple is totally absolved from trying that idiotic stunt, just because they didn't get away with it.

    If you wish to try and pin absurd and idiotic on a company when it comes to patent litigation, take a number and get in fucking line.

    I'm not fanboi, but common sense is lacking in every damn direction in and around patent law.

    Go figure the only ones truly enjoying themselves (and getting absurdly rich) are the lawyers...they wouldn't have it any other way.

  • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:07PM (#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 spire3661 (1038968) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:14PM (#41429653) Journal
    The design is almost 70 years old. What is wrong is people thinking they can lock up art and culture that long.
  • A sidenote... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Misagon (1135) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:18PM (#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...

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:48PM (#41429853)

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

  • Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WinstonWolfIT (1550079) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:50PM (#41429867)

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

  • by MightyYar (622222) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @02:51PM (#41429873)

    That's exactly what I thought. Even the red second hand - the most recent change - was added in 1953. But then I realized that Mickey Mouse is still in copyright as well. Weird, weird world we live in.

  • by jhd (7165) <xyllyx@gmail.com> on Sunday September 23, 2012 @03:00PM (#41429921)

    The comment was intended as a humorous stab at Apple.... here have this clue, I have a few of extras.

  • by SomeKDEUser (1243392) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @04:15PM (#41430537)

    Different corporations have different personalities. Not like people, but there are still things you expect from apple more than from google, for example. Case in point, apple have a borderline OCD-type control-freak personality. There relation to what they consider theirs is very much akin to the relation between Gollum and the One Ring...

    So yeah, you should hit harder on Apple for their dumb lawsuits, because they don't just do it to maximise their profit. They do it out of spite, way beyond what makes any kind of financial sense. Also, they always have been like this: MS won the desktop wars in the 90s because they were more open. Microsoft. Because they needed Open Source to not die, they had to do things that run completely against their DNA. Thus the KHTML-Webkit debacle. Thus their pushing LLVM. They cannot cooperate: they need to control. People, I think, are waking up to that.

    Google is not like that. Their crazy obsession is knowing everything about you in a sort of creepy-voyeur kind of way. They see themselves as a benevolent Big Brother. This is a completely different kind of psychopathology. They will give you a gigabit connection to the internet and let you do anything with it. But you have to share your pr0n with them...

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @04:20PM (#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 Gonoff (88518) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @04:20PM (#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.

  • by harperska (1376103) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @05:07PM (#41430969)

    Maybe they did think it was public domain due to its age. Maybe the manager who approved the design didn't even know about the swiss clock in question. Mistakes happen. What matters now is not that a copy was made, but what will be done about it. Will Apple change their design to a non-infrigning one, will they attempt to license the design, or will they force a lawsuit by insisting that the clock design isn't protected like Swiss Railway asserts it is? Only under that scenario can you compare Apple in this case to Samsung in Apple v. Samsung.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 23, 2012 @05:32PM (#41431089)

    The design is also trademarked. That's a different kettle of fish. How old is the trademarked shape of the Coke bottle?

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Sunday September 23, 2012 @06:15PM (#41431323)
    um... but round corners is.... well... stupid and shouldn't be patentable. Where as, this is a rather blatant, and obvious direct copy of a piece of artwork. Whomever owns that clock design should sue the shit out of apple.

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