Apple pays out for copied clock design

When you’ve come up with an iconic design that’s instantly recognizable but easily copied, you have every right to keep it for yourself.

This is how Swiss national rail operator SBB has successfully extracted $21 million from Apple for copying its famous clock.

Apple may have thought that one clock inevitably looks very like another – unlike tablet computers, of course – when it used the design for the clock face in iOS 6.

The clock was designed in 1944 by Swiss engineer Hans Hilfiker, and is still used in stations across the country. The Apple design copies it in every detail, right down to the little red disk on the end of the second hand that was originally intended to mimic a stationmaster’s hand-held signalling device.

It’s regularly cited as one of the most iconic pieces of twentieth-century design worldwide.

Unlike some companies, SBB hasn’t been particularly outraged to discover that its design has been copied. It’s already licensed it to several other companies, after all, most notable Swiss watch manufacturer Mondaine.

“We’re rather proud that a brand as important as Apple is using our design,” a spokesperson told AFP. “It’s not just about exchanging money, rather drawing up a contract stating where the logo can be used, under what conditions and for how long.”

The two companies announced that they’d reached a deal last month, but it’s only now that Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger has revealed the amount. With the design already out there on millions of devices worldwide, it’s likely to be a rather higher price than would have been the case if Apple had only thought to ask first.