There are no concessions on the internet, as Thomas Heinrich, founder of bestswiss.ch, discovered in relation to his trade mark.
Thomas Heinrich was employed as a marketing and sales manager when he had the business idea of developing an umbrella brand for regional Swiss specialities in the domains of style, luxury and design. The project was to be called "Heidi: best of Switzerland".
He registered the name as a word mark with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) and thought that was the end of it. How wrong he was. "I received dozens of letters, including one from a tourism organisation in Graubünden, stipulating a deadline for withdrawal and threatening court proceedings if I failed to comply," recalls the 51-year-old business economist.
"I foolishly let the deadline pass," explains Heinrich. This resulted in him being embroiled in a legal battle with the tourism organisation, which took over four years to come before the Federal Administrative Court.
But Heinrich did not want to wait for the verdict from St.Gallen. He therefore launched an online platform under the new name bestswiss.ch and tried once again to legally protect his intellectual property.
An initial examination by the IPI revealed that the name was too descriptive for a word mark. So Heinrich developed a logo with a Swiss cross in a gold circle and set about registering it as a word and figurative mark.
This time, the IPI found fault with the inadequate graphic representation, but pointed out how to correct it by adding an additional element. In October 2010, Heinrich finally registered his trade mark, which is still valid today, consisting of a logo, the cross and the addition, "Das Beste aus der Schweiz.", i.e. "The best from Switzerland".
He and his business partner, Anita Di Domenico, have since developed bestswiss.ch into the leading online address for Swiss lifestyle products. The site now features around 500 items from some 200 suppliers, ranging from chocolate manufacturer Aeschbach in Lucerne to the Graubünden-based ski manufacturer Zai.
Incidentally, the dispute before the Federal Administrative Court turned out well in the end and Thomas Heinrich is now allowed to use the trade mark "Heidi: best of Switzerland" again. What he plans to do with it remains unclear. "Perhaps we'll use it for the international version of our platform," he says.
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