The measures introduced to combat “Swissness” misuse yield results
Successful measures in the fight against misuse of “Swissness” and fewer offences in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) reports a positive result for the year 2018.
The key points at a glance:
- In 2018, the IPI did not have to initiate any criminal proceedings in Switzerland. In the 78 interventions led by the IPI, all of the companies involved were cooperative.
- Bilateral dialogue by the IPI is proving to be particularly effective in China, where the IPI only had to intervene in 34 cases.
“Swissness” is a national and international bestseller. The indication of Swiss origin instils trust in consumers as it stands for reliability and premium international quality. Many producers benefit from this advantage. However, not all do this lawfully, as the success of the “Switzerland” brand attracts a high number of free riders. In collaboration with the business community, the IPI combats misuse of indications such as Made in Switzerland, the Swiss cross and the Swiss coat of arms. The business community and the authorities share a common, long-term goal of achieving a high level of acceptance of the “Switzerland” brand both at home and abroad. This allows companies to continue to effectively utilise the competitive advantage that “Swissness” offers.
A good report for “Swissness” in Switzerland
In Switzerland, the IPI issued warnings to companies in 78 cases (previous year: 86) for infringements such as the use of a Swiss cross on an imported product. The companies concerned were cooperative. When the IPI intervened, they made the necessary changes relating to the use of the Swiss indication of source. This meant that the IPI did not have to implement stronger measures such as seizing goods at customs, civil actions or criminal prosecution. Emphasis is placed first and foremost on constructive and pragmatic solutions. For example, a manufacturer who wrongfully used the Swiss coat of arms on packaging had to commit to changing the packaging with immediate effect. However, he was allowed to sell the remaining stock.
Dialogue with China bears fruit
The measures that can be implemented in Switzerland to combat misuse are not applicable abroad. This makes it particularly difficult to enforce the protection of “Swissness”. For this reason, the IPI monitors the national trade mark registers of certain countries, with support provided, where necessary, by Swiss embassies abroad. If it is established that a trade mark application contains unlawful use of the Swiss cross and/or the “Switzerland” designation, the IPI will either directly raise an objection or inform the trade associations about it. The trade associations can also file opposition to the trade mark registration. For example, in 2018, this is how the IPI intervened in 85 cases in India (59 in previous year) against trade mark applications which contained illegal indications of Swiss origin.
The most success has been in the fight against wrongful use of the “Switzerland” brand in India where “Swissness” misuse is anchored in national law. This is also the case in China. The Chinese Trademark Office consistently rejects applications which contain wrongful use of the Swiss cross or the word “Swiss” as part of the trade mark. As a result of this change in Chinese trade mark registration practice, the IPI only had to intervene in 34 cases in China in 2018 (69 in previous year). The legal framework also allows for the confiscation and destruction of products which are wrongfully advertised as being “Swiss Made”. The bilateral dialogue with China, which culminates each year with a meeting in Beijing or Shanghai, is evidently bearing fruit.