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

| News

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.”

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Seems an exorbitant amount of money. And not well spent.

I wonder if SBB would have taken half that much if they had been approached beforehand.


It’s less than 10¢ per instance. So the ridiculousness depends on point of view, I suppose. It does seem like a huge windfall for a clock design, however.

Lee Dronick

I wonder if this gives Apple exclusive rights to the clock on mobile devices.



With all the talk and controversy surrounding Apple’s use of skeuomorphism, I have to question the use of an analog clock design in the first place, as opposed to digits. The second hand even features a “mechanical” pin anchoring it to the center of the clock. Then again, I still like digital watches, so go figure.

Agreed, though, that Apple should pay for the design, given how rabidly they protect their own.

Lee Dronick

“With all the talk and controversy surrounding Apple’s use of skeuomorphism, I have to question the use of an analog clock design in the first place, as opposed to digits. “

Well at least they didn’t use Roman numerals.

Anyway, I like skeuomorphism. Of course it can be overdone, but it can also be underdone.



I’ve got no problem with it, either, although I am anxious to see what Sir Jon has in mind for future UI designs.


This is a good thing.

During my meetings in Switzerland last week, I noted several store fronts featuring this clock. Perhaps my imagination, but it seems the prevalence of the iconic Swiss clock has increased, and I would not be surprised if SBB wittiness a spike in their clock sales this holiday season, courtesy of a little attention from Apple.

Doug Grinbergs

Just thought of this incident again and realized that $21M could have paid for one *heck* of a beautiful new clock design *and*, with the big pile of leftover money, hired a large team of conscientious, detailed-oriented, thorough people (like me (:-) ) to document, report and fix Maps app data.

As a stockholder, I hate to see them squander money like this, but I’m sure there are plenty of more egregious examples. (:-(

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