Bilateral free trade agreement with China

The bilateral trade agreement between Switzerland and China contains substantial provisions on the protection of intellectual property rights. This agreement has been in force since 1 July 2014.

The free trade agreement primarily sets out certain principles, which both Switzerland and China must adhere to. The two countries have committed themselves, in particular, to the following:

  • applying high international standards for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights
  • observing the principles of most favoured nation and national treatment
  • expanding their cooperation within the framework of the bilateral dialogue on intellectual property

The agreement clarifies and reinforces the existing level of multilateral protection of the TRIPS Agreement, particularly in the following areas:

  • Trade marks: both countries have committed to also protecting the new three-dimensional trade marks and acoustic trade marks.
  • Patents: the agreement regulates the patentability of biotechnological inventions corresponding to the European Patent Convention.
  • Test data protection: the agreement requires both countries to protect, in particular, test data in marketing authorisation procedures for pharmaceutical and agrochemical products from unfair commercial use for at least six years.
  • Geographical indications: both countries have agreed to a higher level of protection for all products corresponding to that for wines and spirits under Article 23 of the TRIPS Agreement. This means that all products can benefit from the greater level of protection that is accorded to wines and spirits under the TRIPS Agreement.
  • Indications of source: the agreement requires the contracting parties to protect the names of countries, flags and coats of arms from misleading use and from them being registered as company names or trade marks.
  • Plant variety protection: the agreement also extends the protection of new plant varieties to the export of protected varieties. This provision goes beyond that of the UPOV Convention of 1978 to which China is a contracting state (not, however, to the more recent UPOV Convention of 1991).

The free trade agreement also provides for measures that customs authorities need to take to combat counterfeiting and piracy. Border measures apply to trade mark and copyright infringement as well as for patents and design right infringement. In addition, the agreement establishes standards concerning civil and criminal procedures for the prosecution of infringements and recovery of damages.


The provisions on intellectual property are in Chapter 11 of the main agreement. Annex IX also contains provisions on the protection of plant varieties that further specify those in Article 11.10 of the main agreement.