Last week, Apple released its WatchKit developer tools, allowing developers to begin creating apps for the soon-to-be-released Apple Watch. Those developer tools do not currently support the creation of custom watch face designs, but it is possible they could do so in the future once Apple begins supporting fully native Apple Watch apps next year.
Companies including IWC, Panerai, Omega, Fossil, Armani, Michael Kors, Tissot, Certina, Swatch, Flik Flak, and Mondaine are sending cease-and-desist notices to websites, and even individuals, thought to be offering faces for Android Wear and other smartwatch platforms without permission. The watchmakers are citing various registered trademark, design, and copyright violations.
Richemont, the company behind IWC, Cartier, and Panerai, is one of the front-runners of the legal action and is giving owners of the pirate watch face sites as little as twenty-four hours to remove all infringing content.
TorrentFreak spoke with Luke, the owner of FaceRepo, one of the watchface download sites targeted by pirate allegations. He voiced support of the anti-piracy steps being taken, and detailed the use of a keyword filter they use that helps stop infringing content before it can even be uploaded. Users are also notified if their created designs are infringing copyright, and goes so far as to deactivate accounts of repeat offenders.
“Although some of the replica faces we’ve received take downs for are very cool looking and represent significant artistic talent on the part of the designer, we believe that owners of copyrights or trademarks have the right to defend their brand,” Luke explained.Apple itself hasn't even become a player yet in the smartwatch market and has already faced allegations such as these. Back in 2012, the Swiss Federal Railway service accused Apple of copying its iconic railway clock. A few months after the allegation, Apple reportedly paid the company $21 million for the rights to the clock face design.
“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.”