“Design adds value to our products”

Christoph Fahrni is passionate about design. But it’s not stylish chairs he designs – he ensures that recycling containers are functional and blend in with their surroundings. He systematically applies for design protection for his products. This is how he keeps free-riding copycats at bay.

A recycling container is also a design and can be protected. Photo: LED Werkstatt
A recycling container is also a design and can be protected. Photo: LED Werkstatt

A PET bottle lands in a recycling bin in Burgdorf Hospital and not long afterwards, the same thing happens in a school Zurich. The bottles land in a container created by Christoph Fahrni and Peter Bucher, who own and run the enterprise LED Werkstatt. The container is a product in demand in Switzerland, a recycling nation. In 2018 alone, 35,000 tonnes of PET products were recycled here. LED Werkstatt’s product range also includes neon signs, sockets and charging stations for electric cars. All products are produced in their factory in Thörigen. “The ‘Swiss Made’ aspect is very important to us. As is the design factor,” says Christoph Fahrni. “They add value to the product and are a unique selling point.”


Form through function

The products are an expression of Fahrni’s design philosophy. “I also love stylish sofas but design is much more than that,” says the designer. For him, design is reflected everywhere in his everyday life and discretely fits into the environment. Adding bells and whistles for the sake of beauty is not his thing. “The design must have a use. It should not appear to be an end in itself,” says Fahrni. The appearance of a waste container is the result of a clearly defined design process. The team considers how the optimal container would look, what materials are suitable and much more. Swiss norms are an additional challenge. “In Switzerland, there are even standardised heights and circumferences for bin bags,” says Fahrni. All of these things have an impact on the form.


Protecting designs – “We have invested a lot of time”

A lot of passion and commitment goes into the containers, which is why it is important to try to keep free riders at bay. For this reason, the LED Werkstatt systematically applies for design protection for its products with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI). “We have put time, money and effort into our products. I don’t want to let that be taken away,” says Fahrni. Filing applications has become routine for him. “There have been days when I have registered 60 objects together in one application,” says Christoph Fahrni. These ‘multiple applications’ are particular to design protection, if the designs submitted are from the same category, for example furniture. Once the product has been protected, it becomes a marketable commodity and the owner may, for example, license the innovation.


Design has become one of the most crucial marketing factors for companies and, as a result, counterfeiting is common in this field. Anyone who protects their design can prevent others from using products with the same or a similar design.


“Copying is not worth it”

On the LED Werkstatt website, Christoph Fahrni provides information to prevent creative minds from being tempted to copy their products. Beside every product is the number of the registered design, along with the message: “Copying is not worth it. Please pay particular attention to the IP rights in tenders.” Registering designs in the Swiss design register enables Christoph Fahrni to keep free riders at a distance.

The passionate industrial designer is not running out of ideas. His current favourite product is a charging station for electric cars. He finds ideas for new products everywhere and says we just need to go through life with our eyes open.


Design protection – what you need to know

In Switzerland, an innovation can be protected through the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI). Here are some tips on registering a design:


Illustrations – these should be of a high quality and should clearly depict the design. Tip: submit black and white images so that the design is protected in all colour variations.


Carry out a search – as registrations are not examined for novelty, it is recommended that you carry out a search. Read specialist literature, visit trade fairs or specialty shops. Think about where the inspiration for your design came from.


Term of protection – a design is protected for five years after it is registered. After this, it is possible to renew protection. You can protect your creation for a maximum of 25 years (5x5).


Multiple applications – it’s possible to register multiple designs as long as they all belong to the same class of goods.


Application fee – the basic fee for a design is 200 Swiss francs. Renewal of design protection costs 200 Swiss francs.


Answers to questions about designs – on our website, we answer a range of frequently asked questions (FAQs).


Do you have any other questions? Visit www.ipi.ch or call us on 031 377 77 77.

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