Any sign that is capable of being represented graphically can, in principle, be a trade mark if it is able to distinguish the goods or services of your company from those of your competitors.
Your trade mark must fulfil certain requirements in order to be able to be registered.
A trade mark is considered descriptive if it contains information on possible characteristics of the goods or services, such as quality, geographical origin or function. Therefore, you can't register “Super” or “Bike” as a trade mark. Terms that competitors are dependent on for describing their goods or services – for example, “Waterproof” for clothing – also can't be protected as a trade mark. Descriptive signs such as these belong to the public domain.
- HYDRO COSMETIQUE for cosmetics
- SUPEROIL for lubricating oil
- CAFE SUISSE for catering
Combine a descriptive element with other elements so that the trade mark as a whole can be registered. The consumer must perceive your trade mark as a distinctive reference to your company. For example, the word mark WATCHES can't be used to protect watches. However, by adding the distinctive element MEIER to create MEIER WATCHES, this results in a word mark that can be eligible for protection for watches manufactured by your company.
Signs that belong to the public domain, such as descriptive signs, can be protected as a trade mark if they have achieved recognition on the market as being a trade mark for the goods or services of a particular company. In trade mark jargon, this is called ‘acquired distinctiveness’. In this case, the sign must have been used extensively as a trade mark in Switzerland for several years (known as trade mark-related use).
For example: the yellow colour mark of Swiss Post Ltd; the word mark ‘Läckerli Huus’.
A trade mark is considered deceptive if it raises false expectations in consumers with regard to the characteristics of the goods or services, such as to the origin. You can't use a trade mark with the element “Switzerland” or “Matterhorn” for goods and services from France (→ Indications of source). Equally, you can only use indications such as “William Tell” or “Säntis” to protect goods and services of Swiss origin. Additionally, indications concerning quality or properties can also be deceptive, such as trade marks with the element “Café” for coffee substitutes or “Gold” for gold-plated goods.
- Beltina Suisse for bicycles from France
- VITAMINREICH for alcoholic drinks
- Meier Café for coffee substitutes
- Signs that are in conflict with national legislation and/or with Switzerland's obligations under international treaties are in breach of applicable law.
- Signs that could hurt the sensitivities of foreign nationals, tarnish Switzerland's reputation or disrupt diplomatic relations are in breach of public policy.
- Signs that have a racist or obscene connotation or hurt religious sentiments or are of a sexually offensive nature are in breach of public morality.
- UNO for motor bikes
- 11th September 2001 for aircraft
- MOHAMMED for alcoholic drinks
A trade mark will only be registered if it fulfils all of the requirements for protection. In addition, all goods and services must be correctly classified (→ Modifying your application).
Due to the multilingualism of the country, we always examine signs filed on the basis of all three national languages as well as English.
We don't examine the application to see whether there is a likelihood of confusion with a trade mark already registered. Applicants have to ensure that their trade mark does not infringe older IP rights by carrying out an appropriate search (→ Trade mark searches).
Harmonisation and partial revision of guidelines as of 1 July 2023
Conference on Intellectual Property & Sustainability at the University of Geneva
Symposium: "Best practices in the fight against counterfeiting & piracy – NFTs not your cup of tea? Well, they should: NFTs as a new way of fighting counterfeiting and piracy"