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Smartwatches targeted by luxury watchmakers for pirating designs

Tom Morgan
25 Nov 2014
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Your smartwatch could be breaking copyright, and big name watchmakers aren't happy about it

Piracy is a problem that affects almost every technology field, but it has quickly become a major issue for one new type of gadget; smartwatches. Luxury watchmakers are beginning to target smartwatch manufacturers and third party developers for stealing copyrighted designs and turning them into digital watch faces.

Mondaine, Michael Kors, Omega, and other big name watch brands have all issued takedown requests in the past few month according to TorrentFreak, a site which usually deals with the legality of file sharing. One of the most litigious watchmakers is Richemont, the company behind Cartier and Panerai, which is issuing notices against watch face websites citing breach of trademark rights. Site owners are given 24 hours to remove the infringing content before further action is taken.

It's an understandable move; the digital nature of a smartwatch makes swapping watch faces as simple as making a few clicks in an app, and mimicking a big-name brand is much cheaper than buying the real thing; some of the watches being pirated cost upwards of £10,000, but the smartwatch ripoffs are available for free.

This isn't the first time a physical watchmaker has taken issue with a digital version of their design, either. Mondaine challenged Apple's use of one of its designs in iOS 6, forcing the smartphone maker to pay a reported $21 million in licensing fees. An identical design is freely available online for Motorola's Moto 360.

So far, it appears most watch face websites are conforming to any takedown requests. Speaking to TorrentFreak, one of the people behind FaceRepo said “If a copyright or trademark owner contacts us, we will promptly remove infringing material. To date, all requests for removal of infringing material have been satisfied within a matter of hours.” The site is now flagging content as breaking copyright and informing its users, then banning repeat offenders that continue to upload infringing content.

Despite the willingness to comply, it may not be long until the first lawsuit is filed, meaning the days of luxury watch designs on smartwatch screens could be over - until the companies themselves start creating watch faces of their own.

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