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Irony Watch: Fresh off Icon Piracy Win, Apple Purloins Clock Icon

· September 21, 2012


I am a satisfied iPhone 4S user, but I can’t help but observe that this hasn’t been the best week for Apple.   First the ‘mapocalypse’: its new map app received terrible press for, among other things, pancaking the Eiffel Tower and demolishing bridges.   When your app spawns a Tumblr blog solely designed to mock it, it is a bad day.

Today, media reports picked up that its new iPad icon is identical to a design used by the Swiss national rail authority.  CNET posted a helpful side-by-side here.  The original clock face design was reportedly subject to a design patent, which has long since expired.  However, according to PC Magazine, the iconic face remains subject to a trademark.  This is not unlike the iconic Coca-Cola bottle, which, while no longer protected by its 1937 design patent, remains subject to trademark protection when used to distinguish Coke’s goods in the marketplace.

The irony is that Apple is just coming off a highly controversial billion-dollar victory in the United States against Samsung for smartphone patent infringement, in which the Cupertino-based company also leveled charges of ‘icon piracy.’  Moreover, according to CNET, the iPhone maker has previously rejected apps for confusingly similar icons in the past.  Not exactly an ideal posture for entering into settlement negotiations.

(This is actually the second lap around the irony track, since Apple was supposed to be shameless about stealing good ideas.)

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