Apple is in trouble for copying Switzerland’s famous railway clock

September 21, 2012
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Hans Hilfiker, an engineer, designed a clock face for the Swiss Federal Railways in 1955 that quickly became an internationally recognized symbol for his native country. Apple, with Wednesday’s release of iOS 6, used Hilfiker’s design as the icon for the clock application in the iPad. According to the Swiss site Blick.ch, the SBB (Schweizerische Bundesbahnen; aka Swiss Federal Railways) is “angry”. One of their spokespeople told the site that they’re trying to get in touch with Apple to discuss the financial and legal implications of the unauthorized use of their design. That’s all we know about the story thus far.

So let’s count the number of things Apple screwed up in iOS 6: One, they pulled out YouTube, but that’s OK since Google launched a YouTube iOS app. Two, they pulled out Google Maps, which is making everyone upset because the new maps in iOS 6 are not only ugly, but they’re inaccurate too, which makes them doubly useless. Third, this whole clock thing. For a software release that’s been out for less than 48 hours, we’re curious to see how many more controversies occur.

Should we all be furious at Apple? Normally we’d say no, that it’s OK for companies to compete because that drives society as a whole towards a better future, but this is different. Apple sues damn near everyone who uses Android, going in so far as to have devices taken off markets in certain countries, and now they’re blatantly copying a design that’s synonymous with an entire country. What’s worse?

Is there anything good about this story? Potentially yes, if you’re in Switzerland that is. Apple will likely pay the SBB some money, and hopefully that money ends up being spent on upgrading trains, renovating some of the older railway stations, and other such infrastructure related projects.

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