Whoever uses a deceptive indication of source risks both civil and criminal prosecution.
The instruments for fighting unlawful use were strengthened in the revised Trade Mark Protection Act on 01/01/2017, for example, by introducing a Register for Geographic Indications for Non-Agricultural Products. A Register for Agricultural Products already exists at the Federal Office for Agriculture. This register grants trade mark holders better protection. In addition, the geographical trade mark has been introduced. This facilitates enforcement of protection for geographic indications and indications of source in Switzerland and additionally abroad.
The Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) can press charges in the name of the Confederation and file charges with a civil court. Trade and consumer associations are also entitled to file civil charges which plays a key role in enforcement.
Swiss law generally does not apply abroad. This is why enforcement of protection for indications of source is particularly difficult. International and bilateral treaties protect the sign “Swiss” as well as the Swiss cross. However, successful enforcement of this protection depends on national laws.
Whoever wilfully and unlawfully uses public signs will be punished with a custodial sentence of up to one year or a monetary penalty. If the offender acts commercially, the act is punishable with a custodial sentence of up to five years or a monetary penalty. The maximum penalty possible is 360 daily penalty units, which can correspond to a maximum sum of money of CHF 1,080,000.00.
The instruments for fighting against misuse were strengthened in the revised law. The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) will be able to file charges in the name of the confederation and bring civil action before a court as of 1 January 2017. Civil action will also be authorised for trade associations and consumer protection organisations.
The affected public body can file a civil action in order to protect public interests in the legal use of coat of arms and public designations. This possibility for filing an action can be used particularly for obvious misuse.
Public bodies can also request assistance from the Customs Administration. With this assistance, goods that are unlawfully marked with a coat of arms of the commonwealth can be withheld at customs. Then, within a certain time limit Ordinary proceedings must then be initiated in court within a defined time limit. If proceedings are not initiated, the goods will be released again..
Swiss law is generally not applicable abroad.
That is why enforcement of protection for indications of source are particularly difficult. There are international agreements that protect the designation "Switzerland" as well as the Swiss cross. However, successful enforcement of this protection is dependent on the local national laws.
In future, geographical indication of source may be registered in Switzerland. This register gives the trade mark owner better protection – including abroad.
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