Many Apple Watch reviewers have singled out a lack of third-party watch faces in App Store as one of the most frequent complaints about the wearable device. But rival Samsung, which often brags about the thousands of downloadable watch faces for its own smartwatches, is now being sued over distributing cloned third-party ones in its Galaxy Store.
Switzerland-based Swatch Group has filed a complaint against Samsung over alleged trademark infringement concerning the designs for over 30 downloadable watch faces (the Swiss watchmaker, for those not in the know, has a history of taking legal action).
In its filing accusing the Galaxy maker of unfair business practices, Swatch Group wrote that the watch faces in question “bear identical or virtually identical marks” to the trademarks it owns and uses on its own brands, such as Longines, Omega, Swatch and Tissot.
The watchmaker is basically concerned that those ripped-off designs by third-party developers might fool customers into believing that Samsung and Swatch have an official deal.
The infringing watch faces came from third-party developers, Samsung just hosted them on the Galaxy Store, and many of them were paid. While Samsung pulled some of the infringing designs, its stubborn refusal to review the way Galaxy Store operates and commit to blocking future infringing designs, per Swatch’s request, has led to this lawsuit.
A Swatch spokesman said:
This is a blatant, wilful and international violation of our trademarks by Samsung. The affected brands are worth billions. Our claim for compensation? Triple digits in millions.
Reuters has more:
Swatch has demanded a trial in the complaint which also alleges unfair competition and unfair business practices, and is seeking more than $100 million in damages.
It said it had launched the action in the United States because that was where its trademarks were registered and where apps for Samsung’s Gear Sport, Gear, S3 Classic and Frontier watches could download watch face designs that infringed its trademarks.
If you’re thinking, “That’s an exaggerated reaction,” consider for a moment a funny lawsuit that the Swiss Federal Railways level against Apple in 2012 because the iPhone maker blatantly copied the design of the Railways iconic clock look for its own Clock app in iOS 6.
The legal brouhaha ended with Apple paying $20 million to the Swiss Federal Railways for IP rights so it could continue using the timeless clock design for the Clock app on iPad.
From Swatch’s filing to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York:
This unabashed copying of the trademarks can have only one purpose—to trade off the fame, reputation and goodwill of the Swatch Group Companies’ products and marks built painstakingly over decades.
In view of Samsung’s inadequate response, it is reasonable to conclude that defendants will continue to infringe the trademarks, and thereby cause further loss and damage to the Swatch Group Companies.
Ironically, a few years back Swatch used the slogan “Tick different” to promote its Bellamy quartz wristwatch, prompting an instant lawsuit by Apple. Wait, there’s more!
In 2015, the Swiss watch maker successfully trademarked “One More Thing,” a catch phrase Steve Jobs famously used before unveiling surprise products. Swatch argued that the phrase was inspired by inspector Columbos citation “Just one more thing”.
No matter how you look at it, critics being critics will spare no time bashing Apple over the refusal to host downloadable third-party watch faces on App Store. Some of those people even believe that’s somehow because of Apple’s walled garden and control freakishness.
While there may be some merit to such claims, Apple is more likely simply taking its time to do this right as opposed to rushing out third-party watch faces only to risk lawsuits.
To be sure, the Cupertino company currently provides several licensed watch faces for its wearable device that came from big brands such as Disney and Nike.
Both companies have existing ties with Apple: Tim Cook sits on Nike’s board of directors and Disney CEO Bob Iger is an Apple director. Now imagine, if you will, a legal mess that would without a doubt ensue if Apple allowed third-party watch faces in App Store and a rogue developer managed to sneak a Marvell-themed watch face past Apple’s censors.
If the Cupertino firm is planning on allowing third-party watch faces in the future, however, it better think this through or it might risk multi-million dollar lawsuits like Samsung.
I have no doubt third-party watch faces will come to Apple Watch, but not before Apple’s figured out the best way to screen them in a manner that’ll minimize the risk of litigation.
Is the lack of downloadable third-party watch faces a major downside to owning an Apple Watch versus a Samsung smartwatch, do you think?
Let us know by posting your thoughts in the commenting section down below.