Apple Pays $21 Million to License Swiss Clock Design for iOS

Apple paid US$21 million to license a clock design from Swiss rail operator SBB that the Cupertino company had improperly used as part of iOS 6, according to Swiss newspapers and Agence France-Presse (AFP). The deal between the companies, first reported in October without financial details, allows Apple to continue using the SBB-owned clock design in the iPad’s clock application.

Apple SBB iPad Clock Settlement

The dispute over the clock design began in late September following the release of iOS 6, which for the first time brought an Apple clock app to the iPad. Users quickly noticed that the design of the analog clock was nearly identical to that of the famous Swiss Railway clock, designed in 1944.

SBB, the current owners of the design, told a Swiss newspaper that they were contacting Apple to determine a “legal and financial” resolution. “We enjoy the fact that the Swiss railway clock is being used by Apple. It once again proves that it’s a real piece of design,” SBB spokesperson Christian Ginsig said at the time. “This act, however, is an unauthorized use [of the clock’s design] by Apple.”

Days later, the two companies entered talks to arrange a deal. “There are a lot of brands that use the SBB logo, though nothing like Apple. 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,” SBB spokesperson Patricia Claivaz told AFP.

A final deal was announced in mid-October, allowing Apple to keep using the clock’s design in its iOS apps. Details of the agreement were not disclosed at that time and Apple declined to comment on the situation.

As discovered by AllThingsD Saturday, however, Apple reportedly paid 20 million Swiss francs (US$21 million) to settle the issue. The amount of the settlement is extremely small compared to the company’s revenues and net profits, but it ensures that Apple is once again in compliance with the ethical standard set by CEO Tim Cook after the company’s patent victory over Samsung: “stealing isn’t right.”