Apple Licenses 68-Year-Old Swiss Clock Design From SBB Railway

Apple Inc. (AAPL), which is fighting patent battles with competitors around the globe, agreed to license a 68-year-old design for a clock for Swiss railway stations to use in its iPhone and iPad devices.

State-owned railway operator SBB said last month that while Apple had infringed rights to the motif, it was “proud that Apple took an SBB design.” Apple will now be allowed to use the look of the station clock, designed in 1944 and featuring a “striking red second hand in the shape of a railway guard’s signalling disc,” on its mobile devices, SBB said in a statement today. The companies agreed not to disclose the fee.

“It is a design icon that has obviously lost none of its appeal in the digital age,” SBB said in today’s statement. “It symbolises the innovation and reliability that are key qualities attributed to both SBB and Switzerland as a whole.”

SBB has allowed companies such as watchmaker Mondaine Watch Ltd. to use the design under a license. Apple has been embroiled in patent battles with smartphone maker Samsung Electronics Co. in courts across four continents after Apple accused the South Korean peer of copying its devices last year.

Officials at Apple, which included the design in the updated version of its iOS mobile operating system in September, didn’t immediately return phone calls. Last month, London-based Apple spokesman Adam Howorth said the disputed design appears only on the iPad and isn’t on the iPhone.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cornelius Rahn in Frankfurt at crahn2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net

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