Apple’s vice president of design Jony Ive fired a warning shot at Switzerland back in September when he said his company’s smartwatch could mean trouble for the country known for its wrist-bound timepieces. While the verdict on that declaration is far away, Switzerland may be safe from any sort of Apple Watch invasion within its own borders until after Dec. 5, thanks to a recently discovered patent.
A 1985 patent belonging to William Longe, owner of the Leonard watch brand, prevents Apple from using an image of an apple or the word “apple” in the product class including watches and timepieces. The application filing with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property was reported by Swiss public broadcaster RTS, which cited trade magazine Business Montres & Joaillerie (which translates into “Business Watches & Jewelry”).
The patent will expire on Dec. 15. Apple did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Switzerland is the clear world leader when it comes to watch export sales, according to an October 2013 report from Credit Suisse. In 2012, the country’s watch export sales totaled $22.9 billion. However, China led the way in terms of the volume with 678.5 million watches, 23 times more than the number of watches exported by Switzerland. While the average export price of a Swiss watch in 2012 was $737, the average export price of a Chinese watch was $3.
The report, written before the announcement of the Apple Watch, notes that “the watch’s function as a timepiece is less relevant in the era of mobile phones and computers. For the owner, it is more of a social signal, communicating the wearer’s external values such as status or personality.”