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Summary:

Apple is paying for the familiar looking clock icon on its iPad, having come to licensing terms with the Swiss Federal Railways, which has used the clock since 1944 as a defining icon for its transportation business. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed

Amidst all of the mobile licensing and patent disputes of late, one has been worked out: Apple has come to terms with the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and will pay licensing fee for the clock icon in iOS 6. Details of the agreement weren’t disclosed, but it’s a done deal according to SBB and reported on by The Verge.

Why is a deal needed at all? According to SBB, it’s a long-standing design icon that is an identifying image to the railway:

The Railway station clock was built in 1944 by engineer and designer Hans Hilfiker designed for SBB. It is a design icon, obvious matters in the digital age well. Special feature of the so-called “scoop dial” is the striking red second hand, which has the form of a signal trowel. To date, she is a symbol of innovation and reliability is an important identifying feature of the SBB and Switzerland represents.

What makes the situation most interesting is the irony of it. Apple recently won a $1.05 billion verdict from Samsung in the courts due to alleged design copying and patent infringement. Apple has been clear that it won’t tolerate companies that blatantly copy design cues from iOS or the devices that run it. And yet, in the case of this particular clock, that’s exactly what Apple did.

Regardless, it’s good to see both sides come to terms and a financial agreement. Maybe it’s time — no pun intended — for Apple and others to do the same.

  1. Now, how about adding some color to the app? I mean it’s monochrome to the point where the world clock’s Earth shadow isn’t noticeable without the brightness turned up (iPad).

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  2. I have a last generation iPod Touch running iOS 6….the built-in clock app doesn’t use the Swiss clock. The face reminds me a little of an Ingersoll watch that I had when I was a kid. Is it only the iPad version of the clock app that has the Swiss clock face?

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    1. Kevin C. Tofel Friday, October 12, 2012

      Yup, it’s on the iPad with iOS 6.

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