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Apple agrees to licence Swiss railway clock in iOS 6

Apple has agreed to pay a Swiss company for the right to use its clock design in iOS 6.

If you ever wanted proof that powerful tech companies can admit defeat and learn to compromise, then you should look to the recent negotiations between Apple and Swiss company SBB. Apple has agreed to license a clock design, after hearing its own time ticker in iOS 6 was a little too similar to one designed by the railway company over 60 years ago.

SBB politely pointed out that the time teller in Apple's latest operating system looks quite a lot like its own iconic one designed in 1944. The company has now punted out a press release saying Apple has agreed to pay for the right to use the design -- although the exact terms of the agreement will remain confidential.

The station clock was designed by SBB employee Hans Hilfiker. More than 60 years later, it's still used in stations throughout the railway service, and is licensed to Mondaine, a Swiss watch maker. For Apple to use it without agreeing terms was a bit cheeky.

"For the use of the clockface on certain Apple devices such as iPads and iPhones, the parties have negotiated an arrangement that enables Apple to use the SBB station clock under a licence agreement," reads the press release. "The parties have agreed that the amount of the licensing fee and any further details of the licensing arrangement will remain confidential."

Apparently the clock's red second hand is in the shape of a railway guard's signalling disc, which I didn't previously know.

Apple comes down like a ton of iPads on anyone infringing its own patents, so it's nice to see it work the other way for once. And while the stakes were a lot lower, Apple has worked it out in a far more civilised manner than its billion dollar court case with Samsung. It's now after another $700 million from the Korean company, and is trying to ban some of its products from sale in the process.

Do you think Apple is too litigious? Or is it just protecting its designs? Let me know in the comments, or on Facebook.