back to article What a clockup! Apple's Swiss clock knock-off clocks up $21m fine

Apple has paid 20m Swiss francs (£13m, $21m) to Switzerland's national railway operator, which holds the rights to the distinctive clock-face design used in the new iPad. Last month Apple agreed to shell out for a licence, but the multi-million-dollar cost only emerged yesterday in a report by Swiss paper Tages-Anzeiger. …

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  1. John Robson Silver badge

    "just the ticket"

    But to where, at least in Switzerland you'll get there...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Paltry

      I'd have demanded more, though how do you quantify how much a clock is worth.

      1. Annihilator
        Coat

        Re: Paltry

        "I'd have demanded more, though how do you quantify how much a clock is worth."

        Depends if you're buying second hand...

  2. Chris 171

    Toot Toot!

    Here's a coal spark in your eye apple, let's hope some reality lensed safety specs are on their shopping list.

    1. Ed 13

      Re: Toot Toot!

      More likely an electrical sparkle, as they had electrified a large part their railways by the middle of the 20th century.

      Bizarrely (due to coal shortages whilst the rest of Europe was in the midst of WWII) they even put electrical elements in some of their old steam engines! See the splendid Douglas Self:

      http://www.douglas-self.com/MUSEUM/LOCOLOCO/swisselec/swisselc.htm

  3. James Hughes 1

    Blimey - that's so exact a copy, some Apple bod must have been on his hols in Switzerland and thought 'That looks cool, I'll use that'

    But then, who would have thought you could have 'rights' to the design of a clock face.

    1. Mostly_Harmless Silver badge

      who would have thought you could have rights to a rectangle?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Erm, Swatch, Rolex or any of the other watch makers. Design patents are common, if you can't protect the look and feel of your product then the door is open to people copying all your hard work like Samdung does.

      http://http://www.ipo.gov.uk/d-needreg.htm

      1. Real Ale is Best

        I think you guys have missed the obvious sarcasm.

        As title.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Yes, but you can't register "a round object to show the time". Which is what actually apple is trying to register against Samsung, a rectangular shape with a screen. SSBB registered a given design of a clock - but there are countless round clocks with hands to show time. I've one at my wrist now, it's round, it has hands, but SSBB can't sue its designer.

      3. Velv Silver badge
        FAIL

        @AC 16:50 "open to people copying all your hard work like Samdung does"

        Nice of the Fanbois to prove his own argument. Swatch, Rolex et al have decades of design work in their product, a history of design that repeats their design elements for over a century.

        Tablet design on the other hand is 30 years old (I'm making the leap of faith from Star Trek:TNG tablets), and Apple has no proven track record of "design elements" that gives them any rights to "the design". Apple entered the market less than 5 years ago, and it could be argued they copied the "design" of several other tablets before them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To imitate the usual posting tone of the fandroids on here when Apple is suing for similar things:

      "It's obvious, all they've done is stick a large dot on the second hand to make it more visible. How else are you going to make the second hand more visible?"

    4. Paul Webb
      Go

      Or just looked at his MONDAINE wristwatch

      Like the one I've had for years.

      It has an infinite number of rounded corners, y'know.

  4. I Am Spartacus
    Mushroom

    Sod the clock - whats this profit

    WHAT - A public train service makes a profit??

    And it runs on time, and never seems to have the wrong sort of snow?

    COME ON NETWORK SOUTHEAST - Get your act together, and find out how!!!!

    1. Scott Pedigo

      Re: Sod the clock - whats this profit

      "WHAT - A public train service makes a profit?? ... COME ON NETWORK SOUTHEAST - Get your act together, and find out how!!!!"

      Heh, the SBB actually looked at expanding to England. After looking at the regulatory environment and other considerations, they gave up on the idea.

      It's probably good they didn't. The Swiss have a good reputation for running things efficiently in Switzerland, where everything else also runs efficiently and there is little bad blood between labour and business. When they get out of their element, things inevitably go wrong.

      The national enterprises (airlines, telephone, rail, post) periodically get paranoid about serving only the small Swiss market, worried that they won't be able to compete with European or global competitors. If they're sitting on a pile of accumulated cash, it starts burning a hole in their pocket. With a CEO who dreams of being a big fish in a big pond (so that he/she can pull down those 20 million bonuses like the other big boys) the enterprise tries to go international. Since successful companies are already their competitors and are too big and expensive to buy, or may be foreign government owned and not for sale, they go shopping for something cheap, like a money losing company with overpaid union workers, which they buy thinking they can turn things around. The daughter company sucks out all of the spare cash and then some, and continues to fail.

      Swissair, after starting with a pile of cash, invested in some foreign airlines (KLM? I forget...) managed to go bankrupt, was embarrassingly grounded, got reconstituted with several billion francs of taxpayer money and investments from banks whose arms were twisted by the Swiss government, went back to the same money losing strategy, went bankrupt AGAIN a couple of years later, and finally was sold to Luthansa for one buck, after which the unions took a hit, and Lufthansa turned it around.

      That's just one example. I believe Swisscom overpaid for an ISP in Italy.

    2. Saucerhead Tharpe

      Re the usual two snarky comments

      Firstly "Leaves on the line"

      This is not an indication of the rail company being surprised by Autumn, but that there are cutbacks on track side maintenance. They used to clear overhanging trees, that was deemed to expensive, so they are not.

      Expected results, leaves fall, tracks get slippy. Better answer, cut back trees, no leaves

      Secondly "wrong kind of snow"

      Not a surprise at winter. SNow in the UK is usually formed of big, wet flakes. That year it was artic snow, very fine and powdery. It got in the points, jamming them and shorted electrics too. Snowploughs not as effective.

      Now you may be none the wiser, but you are better informed

      1. handle
        Happy

        Re: Re the usual two snarky comments

        And it's "Arctic", not "artic", which is short for "articulated". So now you are a little better informed too.

        1. Captain TickTock
          Headmaster

          Re: Re the usual two snarky comments

          And it's slippery, not "slippy"

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: leaves and snow

        I think the concern of many passengers about both issues was not that the traveling public should gain a wider understanding of the kinds of snow that fall or the effect of autumn upon deciduous trees, but that British Rail developed trains that failed when there were leaves on the line and the wrong kind of snow without discovering the impact of either until the units were in service - the customer was final testing, and that's not so popular in public transport as it is in IT

        1. Silverburn

          Re: leaves and snow

          As a former UK'er now in CH, I find all these excuses amusing. Wrong type of snow? Trees dropping leaves on the line? Pfft.

          The reason the SBB is so consistent is that they actually clear and maintain the lines - daily and overnight if required. There is no magic or fancy tricks.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: leaves and snow

            Blimey - next they will be scrubbing their hospitals down with bleach :P

          2. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: leaves and snow

            But in the UK you cant afford to clear the tracks at night as that would require management supervision of staff and their union the CBI has forced their labour costs through the roof. When they;re paid 300 times the rate of labourers you just cant justify one managing 10 men and a shovel.

            Oh, and they forgot to get the government to provide an open ended grant for this at privatisation.

            So get a taxi if your chauffeur is busy. Don't laugh - work out how much it would cost to get someone on minimum wage to drive you to and from the pub - or work.

      3. PhilBuk

        Re: Re the usual two snarky comments

        @Saucerhead Thorpe

        'Leaves on the Line' - also a result of the switch from clasp brakes to disc brakes on suburban stock. The old brakes used to clean the wheels.

        Phil.

      4. No, I will not fix your computer

        Re: Re the usual two snarky comments

        @Saucerhead Tharpe

        Being able to explain something is not the same as being able to excuse it

        The public don't care about the internal wrangling about leaf cutting cut-backs (pun intended), they care the piss up in a brewery failure train service doesn't run, being able to point the finger at people within the train service doesn't help, blamestorming makes it worse. Same goes for "wrong type of snow" just because something is unusual it doesn't mean it's not predictable, or that it can't be coped with - as, point in case it is dealt with in other countries (and "unusual" doesn't mean it hasn't happened before).

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Holmes

      Re: Sod the clock - @ I Am Spartacus

      "WHAT - A public train service makes a profit?? COME ON NETWORK SOUTHEAST - Get your act together, and find out how!!!!"

      I'll tell you how: On 2010-ish data, Swiss Railways income is 25% above the combined UK rail industry's income (that's gross revenues per passenger km). I've not adjusted for freight traffic because ICBA, but my fag packet calculations suggest that would actually increase the difference by a few per cent.

      So if you want Swiss style railways, no problem, we do know how it is done, and it involves paying out 25% more than at present. With UK government rail support to the tune of about a third of the total, to raise 25% of gross revenues through fare and freight increases would require the rail user to see a circa 35% increase on tickets.

      Go sell that one to Network Southeast's punters!

      1. Nifty
        Meh

        Re: Sod the clock - @ I Am Spartacus

        Swiss Rail fares are refreshingly cheap once you have invested in discount card - 50% off.

        While in the UK I am forced at wallet-point to use the car as soon as it's 2 people traveling.

  5. big_Jim
    Devil

    So the real story is

    That Apple steal first then pay up when caught.

    The halo is down around the ankles by now.

    1. MrT

      Tick follows tock...

      ... follows tick follows tock - itjust keeps doing what it has always done. And the clock is pretty methodical too.

      Sadly, Apple don't hold exclusive rights to that business model.

  6. Lars Silver badge
    Pint

    Hmm

    Not a great friend of overly litigating Sons of God companies like Apple but how long (too long) can you actually own a design/patent like this. I think it is getting silly, then again I have to assume Apple knew what they where copying and with the amount of lawyers they use, perhaps those lawyers should be given some magical mirror to help them look at what Apple is copying themselves, even free of charge (haa ha).

    1. handle

      Re: Hmm

      The point is that it's not a "design/patent" - it is a design, which is entirely different from a patent. A patent is an inventive step which allows you to capitalise on it without being copied, but also to allows the rest of the world to learn about it, to further the progress of technology and use it after it expires. A design is not an inventive step, so going through a formal procedure of publishing it does not progress technology. Besides which, a design is self-evident so publishing it would be pointless. It is a means of identifying you against imitators, so having it expire would only allow those imitators to feed off your reputation and/or marketing spend.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmm

        I'm not sure that having a white face with the minutes marked by short black lines and hours by longer black lines is that unique.

        The red second-hand, also not very unique. The red ball might be slightly more unusual.

        While there are definite similarities, I'm not convinced the swiss should get protection any more than apple get for their rectangle.

  7. BigFire

    What's mine is mine, what's yours is mine

    That seems to be Apple's attitude to everyone else's IP.

  8. Captain TickTock
    Thumb Up

    I guess...

    .. "Just change all your clocks. Not that big of a deal" didn't go down too well.

    And I wonder how much of Apple's stash is looked after by the Gnomes of Zurich...?

  9. Stig2k
    Joke

    I don't care where the red dot goes . . .

    . . . I just want to know why it's called the second hand when it's clearly the third hand.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: I don't care where the red dot goes . . .

      You're assuming they number from one...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I don't care where the red dot goes . . .

        "You're assuming they number from one..."

        Presumably the IT angle is that they could be numbered zero, one, two? The ordinal and cardinal are not the same. Zero is a cardinal number - but would be the ordinal "first" - so for that sequence then the hand numbered two is still "third".

        For the seconds hand to be "second" then one of the other hands has to be numbered out of the logical sequence of position or time interval.

        However - the time interval of a second IS based on a count of "second". It is the "second" division of an hour by 60. ...or so Wikipedia says.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ordinals

          You could choose to call the hand in position zero the "zeroth" hand. Not an entirely new convention.

  10. Lxbr
    FAIL

    Weird that they didn't license it in the first place

    I was surprised when I saw the Mondaine clock show up in iOS6 - it is so obviously similar to the classic Swiss railway clock design, which is very well known (at least among design people), and the Swiss Railway licensing guys are well-known to be litigious about people using the design in any way, that I assumed that Apple had actually licensed it already. I can't believe they thought they would get away with ripping this one off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Weird that they didn't license it in the first place

      Apple forgot to patent the circle

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Weird that they didn't license it in the first place

        Surely a circle is the limiting case of a rectangle with rounded corners?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Weird that they didn't license it in the first place

      Too bad they didn't manage to get a ban on imports citing financial harm...

    3. Velv Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Weird that they didn't license it in the first place

      I was surprised they bothered to Photoshop out the clock makers name.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Weird that they didn't license it in the first place

      Not like them at all... </troll>

  11. Local G
    Facepalm

    "Sic transit gloria money."

    20m Swiss francs = $21m.

    Now one Swiss franc is worth more than one dollar. Anybody know since when?

    1. Scott Pedigo

      Re: "Sic transit gloria money."

      Since years. The highest it got was about CHF 0.78 = USD 1

      1. Local G
        Facepalm

        @ Scott Pedigo

        " The Canadian dollar in 2007-08 and the Swiss franc in 2008 briefly had a higher value than the U.S. dollar but both again became lower valued after the great U.S. dollar rally of late 2008 and early 2009.

        Now however both the Canadian dollar and the Swiss franc has regained a higher value than the U.S. dollar. Furthermore, the Australian dollar has also gained a higher value than the U.S. dollar.

        As a result there are now 5 major currencies with a higher value than the U.S. dollar, namely the British pound, the euro, the Swiss franc, the Canadian dollar and the Australian dollar."

        I thought all the action would be in the yuan. Duh.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ Scott Pedigo

          never the see the high days of £1 to $5 again though

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ Scott Pedigo

          There are also a few currencies stronger than the Pound Sterling, IIRC Arab countries which are wealthy due to oil.

    2. Irony Deficient

      Sic transit gloria …

      Something like Sic transit gloria Americanarum Civitatum Fœderatarum might be closer to the mark. Or the dollar, for that matter.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A company that cough up having copied someone else's design? Samsung could learn a thing or two...

    Down votes in 3... 2... 1...

    1. John 211

      more like

      ...Down votes 1..2..3..

      Also methinks 'Apple caught out by second-hand design' would be a better headline - although it would get boring using it every time Apple produced something 'new'.

  13. mickey mouse the fith

    I'm in 2 minds about this. On the one hand, its always nice to see Apple getting a bit of karma payback, but on the other, its ridiculous to me that a basic clock face could be patented. I mean, its only a few lines on a circle, how is this in any way not obvious and generic?. Until I read this I had no idea you could patent/copyright simple things like this.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Darryl

      You DID see the reply to a similar comment above that pointed out that Apple patented the rectangle, didn't you?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It seems

        there are quite a few people that need reminding, again, that patents, registered designs, copyright and trademarks are all separate and distinct things.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. mickey mouse the fith

        "You DID see the reply to a similar comment above that pointed out that Apple patented the rectangle, didn't you?"

        Yeah, i did, and its fucking ridiculous Apple were awarded it, as is copyrighting/patenting/whatever a bloody clockface, which is the point i was trying to make :-)

  14. Graham O'Brien
    Happy

    Clever of the Swiss

    ... to taper the minute and hour hands slightly - nay, subtly - to avoid them being largely rectangular with a curved bit. It's as if they knew years ago that the rectangle (with a curved bit) was going to be patented, so they made their plans to avoid that particular battle.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was the bell end of Apple's second hand...

    and not his face that moved the court.

  16. Dire Criti¢
    WTF?

    Do I have deja vu...

    ...or was this reported on the BBC website weeks ago?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do I have deja vu...

      The fact that Apple licensed the design was reported a few weeks ago. The difference, as is clearly stated in this article, is that now the cost of the license has apparently been revealed.

  17. Dick Head

    The odd thing about the swiss railway clocks...

    ...is not the design, which is very clean and distinctive. Instead the odd thing is the way they act when the second hand reaches the 12 o'clock mark.

    See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGRJWl48b7w&feature=related

    1. madferret

      Re: The odd thing about the swiss railway clocks...

      Yes, it means trains are more likely to depart on the 'click' of the minute as the driver has 2 seconds to react.

      I wonder if the '59 second' minute is patented?

    2. Martin 71 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: The odd thing about the swiss railway clocks...

      It's because it's a master clock system with the second hand independent of the minute/hour hands (and the master clock). The second hand is adjusted to be slightly fast, so reaches the 12.00 position slightly ahead of the minute impulse from the master clock. It's locked there mechanically till the minute impulse releases it :-)

      We used to have similar systems over here (I believe some of the later Gents' systems did it) but now... all over to quartz crap that doesn't keep time, never shows the same times, and needs batteries. YAY progress!

      1. Miami Mike
        Facepalm

        Re: The odd thing about the swiss railway clocks...

        "but now... all over to quartz crap that doesn't keep time, never shows the same times, and needs batteries. YAY progress!"

        But it IS progress. Quartz timepieces can easily keep time to within seconds a month, many of them to within seconds a year. Even the really, really cheap quartz movements are that good, and when they stop, it is a $3 part (yes, actually $3) instead of a $XXX overhaul as for a mechanical watch.

        Mechanical watches are like steam trains. Everyone loves them, likes to watch them work, they are expensive to buy and expensive to maintain, they have "heritage" (sometimes) and "panache", however, when you actually need to GO someplace, you get onto a Boeing/Airbus/whatever jet airplane and fly there.

        If you are into steam trains, get a mechanical, windup or automatic watch. If you want to know what time it is, get a quartz watch. Once you know how each type works, you'll be amazed that a mechanical watch works AT ALL, let alone consistently (400 years of development helps), and for any kind of affordable price. (Cheap mechanical watches are junk - Vostok, anyone?) Quartz, especially the better quality quartz movements ($40 and up) just blow away the mechanical stuff. A tenth the price, ten times the accuracy, not position, magnetism or temperature sensitive, rugged, but quartz movements don't get no respect even though there are some stylish quartz watches (Rado ceramic, for instance).

        Now, if you REALLY want to know what time it is, you can buy a watch radio-synched to WWV (national time standard) for about $40. Sets and resets itself, battery lasts 2 years, it is dead-on accurate. The case is plastic because the radio signal needs to get through, so fine jewelry it isn't. That could be remedied, though, and you could have a multi-thousand dollar watch with a $50 movement, the majority of the price being the bling - just like Rolex.

        If you want to know the time, get a quartz watch. If you want to impress random people you don't even know (and possibly get mugged by them), buy an expensive mechanical watch. Guys notice each-other's watches by brand (even Douglas Adams mentions that), women only notice if the watch is elegant or ugly.

    3. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: The odd thing about the swiss railway clocks...

      Instead the odd thing is the way they act when the second hand reaches the 12 o'clock mark.

      At the very least Dutch and German railway clocks behave exactly the same way. It's to do with the way they keep time: a synchronous motor driving the hands, and a pawl stopping the seconds hand at 0, which is lifted by an electromagnet driven from a central controller. With the seconds hand running slightly fast you only have to make sure there's the 'proceed' pulse every minute on the minute to keep every clock around in sync, in a very simple way. At work, two desks over there is such a clock, built by Telenorma (now Bosch), and driven by a Bosch Tenotime 2.

  18. Paw Bokenfohr

    $21m...

    ...or about 4 hours of Apple's profit (using guesstimated figures I found on the always reliable internet).

    Not insignificant, but not going to trouble them I suspect.

    1. EyeCU

      Re: $21m...

      Not on its own no but a constant stream of $21m here, $380m there will mount up pretty quickly

  19. Mr Young
    Coat

    don't get me started...

    I DO hate square clocks and watches

  20. Antoinette Lacroix
    Devil

    What goes around, comes around

    That's what you get if you try to sue the crap out of the competition, I'm afraid. If Apple had been reasonable in the past, no one would have bothered, but now they're on everyones list. I bet patent trolls around the globe are right now skimming through their folders to find anything remotely related to Apple products.

  21. aurizon

    Price Increase

    I think a 1% increase on Apple prices to their Swiss distributor will look after this and then keep on enriching Apple.

    Make it so.

  22. armyknife

    Clocking An eyeFull

    Nice story, but I think my title would have been better.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When does a licence deal become a fine?

    When Anna leach writes it up.

  24. PeterM42
    Megaphone

    And meanwhile on Android....

    Did Patrick Moor pay the Swiss anything for his app which provides a Swiss Railway clock? (unfortunately NOT in place of the standard one).

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