European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is an international organisation with offices in Geneva, Brussels and Luxembourg. Within the framework of the EFTA, Switzerland maintains numerous free trade agreements, which also contain rules to protect intellectual property. The agreements make an important contribution to protecting innovation.


Five facts about the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

  • Switzerland is a member of the EFTA, together with Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway.
  • In 1960, the EFTA set up a free trade zone to promote trade and economic cooperation between members (EFTA Convention).
  • The EFTA Convention contains provisions (pdf) on intellectual property, among other things.
  • Since the early 1990s, EFTA members have been negotiating free trade agreements with third countries (see EFTA third-country policy); Switzerland has already signed many such agreements.
  • Together with the EU, the EFTA member states of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein make up the European Economic Area (EEA).

How significant is the protection of intellectual property in free trade agreements?

  • Switzerland as a business location relies on a well-developed international system to protect intellectual property rights.
  • The expansion of free trade requires improved protection for the intellectual property of innovative products and services being traded.
  • The protection of intellectual property, such as patents, trade marks, geographical indications and designs, has become increasingly important in global trade in recent years.

What role does the IPI play in EFTA?

  • We are part of the Swiss delegation in free trade negotiations with third countries. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) assumes overall responsibility.
  • We negotiate the relevant chapter and annex on the protection of intellectual property.
  • We represent Switzerland at meetings of the Working Group on Intellectual Property (EFTA/EEA) with the EU Commission in Brussels.



Further information

Further information on free trade agreements is available on the websites of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

NB: In EFTA agreements, substantive provisions relating to the protection of intellectual property are usually contained in an IPR annex to the main agreement.