The pioneers of Swiss design protection

Switzerland is home to numerous iconic designs. For over 130 years, creative individuals have been applying to protect their works with the IPI. We take a look at the very first Swiss design registrations.

The list of the first design registrations was integrated into the patents register. Copyright: IPI

The shape of an object or a pattern on a surface, for example, can be an essential feature which distinguishes a product from its competitors. Swiss designers were already aware of this over 130 years ago. Thanks to the Designs & Models Act (since 1 July 2002: Designs Act), which came into force on 21 December 1888, they were able to protect their designs from free riders. They did so at the Federal Office of Intellectual Property, today the IPI.


First design entry: 1 June 1889 at 8am

Who was the first to apply to register a design in Switzerland? The answer can be found in the IPI’s archives. The volume entitled ‘Muster 1-78’ contains a meticulous list of the first register entries – down to the hour. The only drawback is that there are no photos as cameras were not common at that time.


According to the archives, designs by the Meyer brothers from Oftringen were the first to make it into the register. On 1 June 1889 at 8am, 31 designs submitted by the brothers for “yarn-dyed cotton goods” received protection. The second register entry was secured at 4.15pm on the same day by Huldreich Graf from Winterthur for 28 designs for mosaic tiles. On 3 June, he registered six more designs for mosaic tiles for wall cladding. The first ten entries also included embroidery, watches and surgical instruments. Textiles dominated, which reflects the strength of the industry at that time.


Nowadays, you can still protect designs, although a lot has changed since 1889. You can now apply to register a design with the IPI fully online. Its design protection experts rarely receive applications by post. Up until 2003, it was even possible to physically submit objects measuring up to 40x40 cm. It’s still possible to submit designs, but with a maximum weight of five kilograms and maximum dimensions of 30 cm in any direction. However, this hardly ever happens today because it’s possible to send in high-resolution drawings and images electronically.


How to apply to register a design in Switzerland

  • Designs are new, creative forms that can be protected by means of registration. This includes two-dimensional designs, such as fabric patterns and bottle labels, but also shapes, such as watches, lamps and chairs. Here are some things to look out for when applying to register a design:
  • Illustrations: They 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 in Switzerland, we recommend carrying out a search. Read specialist literature; visit trade fairs or specialised 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. The creation can be protected for a maximum of 25 years (5 x 5 years).
  • Multiple applications: You may file several designs in one application, provided that they belong to the same class of goods.
  • Costs: The basic fee for a design is CHF 200. Renewal of design protection costs CHF 200.
  • Do you have any questions? Visit our design protection page or call us on 031 377 77 77.
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