IP and innovation

A well-functioning intellectual property (IP) system increases the attractiveness of a business location. It supports the innovation cycle and promotes sustainable economic growth. As an innovation and export economy, Switzerland is dependent on adequate and enforceable IP protection.


What importance does IP play in innovation?

  • Adequate and effective protection of IP encourages innovation.
  • Protecting IP is an important incentive for the large investments in labour and capital needed to develop innovative products and services. It is the prerequisite for a functioning innovation cycle.
  • IP protects innovators from free riders who take advantage of the work of innovative entrepreneurs, creative artists and authors without any economic output of their own.
  • When developing a new product, an entrepreneur relies on different IP rights depending on which stage of the innovation cycle they are at.
  • Patents already play an important role in basic research. They grant the inventor an exclusive right of use (limited to 20 years), provided that they patent their invention while it is still novel and has not been published.
  • Design and trade mark protection then comes into play during the product development and marketing stage.
  • Protecting IP enables an innovative company to reinvest their revenues from sales and licensing into ongoing development and new products.
  • IP is therefore the basis of a functioning innovation cycle. It is a fundamental element from the initial idea and development stage, through to successful implementation and marketing of products and services. IP therefore promotes sustainable economic growth.
  • Switzerland’s innovative, export-oriented economy is dependent on effective and predictable IP protection at home and abroad.

How does the IPI contribute to protecting innovation?

  • As the Swiss Confederation’s centre of competence for all intellectual property matters, we are a pillar of the Swiss economic and innovative landscape. We work at national and international level to ensure appropriate, effective and economically viable IP protection.
  • We work towards improved innovation protection in bilateral and multilateral negotiations.
  • The expansion of free trade requires improved protection of the IP behind the innovative products and services that are to be traded. We ensure that the respective free trade agreements contain a substantial chapter on protecting IP.
  • We work closely with the international organisations responsible for intellectual property, such as the European Patent Office (EPO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Union Intellectual property Office (EUIPO).
  • In the TRIPS Council, Switzerland, together with other WTO member states, regularly puts the issue of “IP and Innovation” on the agenda. Since 2012, the Council has addressed three sub-topics under this agenda item every year – topics such as the benefits of IP for SMEs in trade, development and growth; strategies for low-emission technologies; and technology partnerships with universities.
  • In 2018, the TRIPS Council focused on the topic of the benefits of intellectual property in the new economy. The IPI drafted a communication to the TRIPS Council on this in October 2018 and co-organised a panel discussion (7 November 2018). The communication was sponsored by the group Friends of IP and Innovation (with Brazil as a co-sponsor). Taking part on the panel was the chief economist of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as well as three scientists, who had been able to implement their university work entrepreneurially thanks to intellectual property rights. The entrepreneurs explained with their case studies how it had been possible, thanks to a patent, to get the necessary financial means for their start-up from investors.
  • The IP and innovation topics discussed in the past in the TRIPS Council (as well as links to contributions made by individual WTO members including Switzerland) can be found on the WTO’s website.