Ideas, as such, cannot be protected, however, under certain conditions the concrete form of the idea can be:
- Technical solutions to a problem can be protected by a patent (e.g. heatable ski boots)
- The name of a product or a logo can be protected by registering a trade mark (e.g. Ricola)
- A product form can be protected by filing a design (e.g. Colani bottle)
- Literary works, art and computer programs are protected by copyright
An idea alone is not patentable, but the exact instructions for arriving at the solution to a technical problem are. The realisation of the idea must be accurately described.
Discoveries, aesthetic forms, and business systems are not considered inventions in Switzerland and thus cannot be patented. A discovery refers to finding something which already exists and simply describing it, or, in other words, an invention expands the technical possibilities of mankind while a discovery only expands our knowledge.
More examples of what is not patentable can be found under What is an invention.
Good to know
- Computer programs, as such, are not patentable, but, inventions based on such programs are (for example, electronic steering). More information on computer-based inventions can be found on page 14 of our patent examination guidelines (available in German (PDF) and French (PDF)).
Harmonisation and partial revision of guidelines as of 1 July 2023
Conference on Intellectual Property & Sustainability at the University of Geneva
Symposium: "Best practices in the fight against counterfeiting & piracy – NFTs not your cup of tea? Well, they should: NFTs as a new way of fighting counterfeiting and piracy"