Apple pays around $20 million to use iconic Swiss clock

When we look at the time, we can use a wall-mounted clock, our watches, or our phones. We could also use a pocket watch if we're living in 1920 but let's not worry about that. When it comes to clocks, history seems to suggest that nobody does it better than the Swiss.

The clock above is iconic, having been designed for the Swiss rail service in 1944. It's almost an institution, having been identified as one of the greatest designs of the twentieth century. The clock is almost a symbol of Switzerland, which is saying a lot. Let's put the Swiss clock beside the iOS equivalent:

On the left, you have the Swiss clock. On the right, you have Apple's clock, redesigned in iOS 6, which you have to admit is very similar. The company was accused of plagiarizing the Swiss clock's design, and taken to court as a result. To cut a long story short, the companies came to a cordial agreement: Apple can continue to use the clock if they pay the licensing fee.

That fee is around the $20 million dollar mark; for a company like Apple, that's chump change. The Swiss rail company stated the following, back in September:

We're rather proud that a brand as important as Apple is using our design.

Now that the fee has been paid both companies can get back to making sure everything is on time.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Swiss clock image: Indish
Thanks to Neowin user Phouchg for this news tip!

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71 Comments

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Must be nice to throw $20 million out for a stupid Swiss clock design. Those $20 million could have been used to give Foxconn employees a well deserved bonus this christmas.

It's a very famous, and iconic design. I was due to pick up a Mondaine watch from my local jewellers last year but they kept getting messed around by the supplier and after two months waiting I cancelled the order. I guess as long as I have my work iPhone I can have a close approximation

Leave it to Apple to overpay to make another part of their OS skeumorphic. When are the design idiots down there going to realize that such a design model should have stopped being used in like 2004? Probably never.

Chugworth said,
Does anyone really use that ugly thing to tell time when a digital clock is sitting right at the top of the screen?

I thought the digital one was the only one.

Don't worry $21m is nothing! They pay their executive Bob Mansfield about $2m a month when he was resigning and then came back after being convinced by Tim Cook.

This amount is nothing, the $1 billion from samsung will cover it in due time!

You mean Apple doesn't already have a patent for a device
"possessing circular or other form with markings or other such similar indications of certain intervals placed around the periphery, heretofore known as the "clock face", which correlate to various degrees of rotation around a central point, heretofore known as the "center" and when combined with multiple pointing devices which contain whether electronic or physical counter balance measures so as to not adversely affect the rate of rotation around the "center", heretofore known as the "second hand", "minute hand" and "hour hand", which each revolves around the "center" of the "clock face", with each pointing device having one end which by virtue of their relative rotational ratios and their position when viewed with the "clock face" visible beneath, the pointers will thus serve to indicate the time of day in accordance with established International Standard Units (SI) regarding representation of the current time of day as previously set forth, within allowable tolerances.

To further add: the "clock face" need not be circular. It may be elliptical, triangular or rectangular: it may present itself in any regular or irregular geometric configuration, in any arbitrary proportion and only requires certain markings be made upon its surface which can be optically translated and interpreted by the viewer into correlated, equidistant quasi-circular indications from which the observer can infer in to the approximate correct time of day.

Additionally, the physical location of each "hand" within the "clock face" is not absolute and therefore the location of the "hands" may be located elsewhere should the physical or electrical construction of the device suggest or otherwise require implementing the "hand" in that or any other arbitrary location, even if not in the "center" of the "clock face" meets the definition of a time-keeping device, however, individual "hands" mounted elsewhere may or may not include a region or "face" indicating the time period the "hand" is indicating.

This can logically be extended to tracking days, months and years as SI units so we therefore reserve the right to future developments incorporating our time tracking system."

Edited by abecedarian paradoxious, Nov 12 2012, 1:55am :

VerletzerCR said,
The clocks aren't "similar," they're exactly the same.

No they're not. There are subtle differences.

1. The minute notches are shorter and thicker on the actual clock.
2. The hands minute and hour hands are tapered on one side in the actual clock.

We're rather proud that a brand as important as Apple is using our design.

Which is why we took them to court and got $20 million.... ok.

JessJess said,

Which is why we took them to court and got $20 million.... ok.

They have to defend their copyrights, or risk losing them, that's how it works.

JessJess said,

Which is why we took them to court and got $20 million.... ok.

If they weren't proud to have Apple using their design, they would have demanded that they stop. Instead, they were willing to license it. They are probably proud that a big name company like Apple is so willing to use their design - and pay $20 million to use it.

Regardless, they had to act. If you don't defend your copyright, you will lose it.

Glassed Silver said,
Wow, lots of designers and corporate identity managers on here again.

GS:mac

When it comes to bitching about Apple just about everyone on here is a Pro.

virtorio said,
When it comes to bitching about Apple just about everyone on here is a Pro.

You do realize that some of the people here are "pros", don't you?

THE_OBSERVER said,
Wish they forced apple to remove the clock design.

Why would they do that? It gets them additional exposure. Mondaine is probably quite happy about that as well, they barely have a presence in North America. I know the only other person in Vancouver who has one.

migo said,

Why would they do that? It gets them additional exposure. Mondaine is probably quite happy about that as well, they barely have a presence in North America. I know the only other person in Vancouver who has one.

Somehow I don't think this would provide "positive" exposure for the Mondaine brand. The majority of iOS users (i.e. the higher percentage of users that haven't been exposed to this court case via tech media) will probably see this design as an "Apple/iOS" clock, and merely see any authentic Mondaine clocks as an imitation. There's nothing obvious in iOS that states "this clock face design is licensed from Mondaine" to promote the exposure of the brand.

THE_OBSERVER said,
Wish they forced apple to remove the clock design.

Free publicity plus an extra $20 million. Pretty stupid to have them yank it if you ask me.

SixFootJockey said,

Somehow I don't think this would provide "positive" exposure for the Mondaine brand. The majority of iOS users (i.e. the higher percentage of users that haven't been exposed to this court case via tech media) will probably see this design as an "Apple/iOS" clock, and merely see any authentic Mondaine clocks as an imitation. There's nothing obvious in iOS that states "this clock face design is licensed from Mondaine" to promote the exposure of the brand.


I have a hard time believing anyone with half a brain would seriously say that copying a clock design physically is more attractive across all those stations SBB maintain - keeping in mind that they'd probably replace ALL their clocks at the same time (which must have looked pretty bad before) - than making that copy in software for maybe a couple of hundred dollars for millions of devices Apple maintain.

GS:mac

I think it's laughable that you all look at this as choosing where to spend the companies money. Clearly they stole the design of the clock and they do this all the time with anything everything the Apple produces. They got caught and settled. Don't expect a publicly traded company to not cut corners or actually care about the homeless.

Yeah I really do not get spending $20 million dollars on the right to use that particular design.
I no doubt believe that the devil is in the details, but this truly seems to be excessive.
Take that money, use it pay 400 factory workers around 50,000 a year and create at least some jobs at home.
Also I just do not see how what is basically different size rectangles that is being used to make up the face of the clock just cannot be done differently enough to not warrant a lawsuit.
It all seems silly indeed.

DirtyLarry said,
Yeah I really do not get spending $20 million dollars on the right to use that particular design.
I no doubt believe that the devil is in the details, but this truly seems to be excessive.
Take that money, use it pay 400 factory workers around 50,000 a year and create at least some jobs at home.
Also I just do not see how what is basically different size rectangles that is being used to make up the face of the clock just cannot be done differently enough to not warrant a lawsuit.
It all seems silly indeed.

It's an awesome design, I have it on my wrist.

technikal said,
$2.5 million for hurricane victims.

$20 million for clock.

If they hadn't made that donation, that comparison wouldn't be made. It's a step up from the Apple of years past, which didn't give anything - I say we encourage them to do more, not discourage because they could have done more.

techishere said,

Yes, Microsoft / Bill Gates !
any question ?

I don't see any articles about Microsoft doing so?

Plus, it's not Apple's fault there are homeless people.

Dinggus said,

I don't see any articles about Microsoft doing so?

Plus, it's not Apple's fault there are homeless people.


You say that like the only people who should ever be charitable are the people who can be held directly responsible for the needs of those requiring charity.

Dinggus said,

Plus, it's not Apple's fault there are homeless people.

Actually with their fanatic followers and overblown prices, I suspect Apple might have made a lot of people homeless ;-)

Dinggus said,

I don't see any articles about Microsoft doing so?

Plus, it's not Apple's fault there are homeless people.

Over the years there have been numerous articles about Microsoft's/Gates' charitable giving. And every time there are, the Apple/Linux fans have a fit that they are only printing articles to get publicity, or trying to make entrench the Windows monopoly by giving away Windows, and forcing those poor (literally and figuratively) people to use Windows. There was a time a few years back when there was so much complaining, that Microsoft later gave away a few Macs to get people to shut up. The common line was that Apple did not want publicity, and so they did not announce their giving, and the Apple fans rallied around that point. Then Apple gives a couple million and then put out a press report that they gave money, and the Apple fans cheer it.

Face it, Apple got caught copying, they admitted to it (if they didn't think they copied, they would have tried to patent it themselves or take it to court) and admitted by paying up.

Dinggus said,

I don't see any articles about Microsoft doing so?

Microsoft isn't going that specifically, but there are many many many articles about the wonderful work that Microsoft and especially Bill Gates are doing.

Dinggus said,

I don't see any articles about Microsoft doing so?

Plus, it's not Apple's fault there are homeless people.

Then stop reading only Apple news.

Joshie said,

You say that like the only people who should ever be charitable are the people who can be held directly responsible for the needs of those requiring charity.

No, but whining about how a multi-billion dollar company spends their money is pointless.

Milamber said,

Actually with their fanatic followers and overblown prices, I suspect Apple might have made a lot of people homeless ;-)

If people became homeless due to buying products, then who's fault is that?

nohone said,

Over the years there have been numerous articles about Microsoft's/Gates' charitable giving. And every time there are, the Apple/Linux fans have a fit that they are only printing articles to get publicity, or trying to make entrench the Windows monopoly by giving away Windows, and forcing those poor (literally and figuratively) people to use Windows. There was a time a few years back when there was so much complaining, that Microsoft later gave away a few Macs to get people to shut up. The common line was that Apple did not want publicity, and so they did not announce their giving, and the Apple fans rallied around that point. Then Apple gives a couple million and then put out a press report that they gave money, and the Apple fans cheer it.

Face it, Apple got caught copying, they admitted to it (if they didn't think they copied, they would have tried to patent it themselves or take it to court) and admitted by paying up.

Can you show me articles where Apple is complaining about Microsoft doing this? Another patent comment, Apple isn't the only company with a lot of patents.

SubZenit said,

Then stop reading only Apple news.

Seems like that's all Neowin posts now days.

Simon said,
Microsoft and Bill Gates are separate entities - there seems to be a misunderstanding around that.

Thank you.

Dinggus said,

Can you show me articles where Apple is complaining about Microsoft doing this? Another patent comment, Apple isn't the only company with a lot of patents.

And why would Apple would complain about Microsoft/BillG giving to charity? I never said that Apple complained, I said Apple fanboys complained.

No, they are not the only ones to hold a large patent profile. The difference is that other companies use their patents to defend themselves, Apple uses them as a weapon, taking whatever they wish, try to get patents on the most basic things, then immediately go to court when some other company does something that is even in the slightest way similar to an Apple product.

nohone said,

And why would Apple would complain about Microsoft/BillG giving to charity? I never said that Apple complained, I said Apple fanboys complained.

No, they are not the only ones to hold a large patent profile. The difference is that other companies use their patents to defend themselves, Apple uses them as a weapon, taking whatever they wish, try to get patents on the most basic things, then immediately go to court when some other company does something that is even in the slightest way similar to an Apple product.

I think people take this "fanboy" stuff to seriously. I've never seen anything about Microsoft do anything for homeless people.

As for patents, is it not a right to take someone to court?

Dinggus said,
I've never seen anything about Microsoft do anything for homeless people.

Maybe not directly, but they match employee donations, and sponsor contests like (off the top of my head) the Apps for Social Good contest (http://www.neowin.net/news/mic...pps-for-social-good-contest), and their imagine cup contest comes up with great new apps to help people too (like a WP-based Malaria Detection app http://www.neowin.net/news/mal...-opponent-yet-windows-phone).

Stuff like that obviously doesn't make new houses and give homeless people money & a job, but it can make peoples lives better.

Raa said,
Wait, Apple didn't have a patent on this???

They tried, but discovered that prior art existed that predates Steve Jobs' birth by many years.

Toysoldier said,

No only for rounded rectangles

Microsoft put a rounded rectangle on the Zune, and the Apple fans mocked it (look up squircle). Apple makes a rectangle with rounded edges, and it needs to be patented so nobody else can copy it.

Raa said,
Wait, Apple didn't have a patent on this???

Nope, Apple stole it and got caught.

Now Apple act like they've always wanted to 'license' it.

neufuse said,
waste of money, for $20 mil you could of hired designers to make tons of new designs

There, that puts their $2 million donation to the victims of Sandy into perspective.

Shiranui said,

There, that puts their $2 million donation to the victims of Sandy into perspective.

You took the words from my mouth, I was about to say the same, seeing a company doing such things disgust me, really.

SubZenit said,

You took the words from my mouth, I was about to say the same, seeing a company doing such things disgust me, really.

No one forced them to donate the money, I really don't see why you have a problem with that

neufuse said,
waste of money, for $20 mil you could of hired designers to make tons of new designs

True, but they wouldn't be established and instantly recognizable. Which was kind of the point here...

neufuse said,
waste of money, for $20 mil you could of hired designers to make tons of new designs

or paid the people to make a better maps app!