iPhone 5 Launch Brings Another Legal Dispute
On a day when Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) employees should be celebrating the release of the iPhone 5, the company's legal team is bracing itself for another trademark infringement dispute.
SBB, the national railway company of Switzerland, might sue Apple over the use of a new clock featured in iOS 6. According to Bloomberg, the company alleges that Apple is infringing on its design, which was created in 1944.
The railway has previously allowed watch manufacturers to use its design after signing a licensing agreement. Thus far, Apple has not signed an agreement with SBB. The company hopes to change that and is currently having discussions with the iPhone maker.
An SBB spokesman, Reto Kormann, told Bloomberg that the company expects to resolve the issue with Apple in the next few days.
"The money isn't in the front of our interests because we are proud that Apple took an SBB design," Kormann told the publication. "If we have a cooperation agreement between two good brands, that's a win-win."
An Apple spokesman responded to the dispute by telling Bloomberg that the "disputed design" only appears on the iPad, not the iPhone. He made no other comments.
Given the soft nature of the complaint (and the unusually terse response from Apple), it seems likely that Kormann is correct in his assessment. The two firms will almost certainly work out their differences through either a settlement or a licensing agreement.
This could be the first trademark dispute that the Cupertino, California-based company is able to settle quickly and amicably. Apple's worldwide dispute with Samsung and other tech giants may never come to an end. In China, Apple faces a number of legal issues.
With SBB, however, the Mac maker will probably get off easy. First and foremost, it is entirely possible that Apple is innocent of any wrongdoing here. While its designers may have gotten a little carried away with iOS 6, artists tend to borrow ideas from a wide variety of sources. In the automobile industry, they call that "inspiration." In technology, they think of it as "infringement."
Apple may also benefit from the fact that SBB execs want to be friends with the company, not enemies. SBB could enlist in the help of the Swiss government and make a serious case out of the complaint. Instead, SBB wants to end this as quickly and as smoothly as possible.
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