United against ‘Swissness’ misuse – the IPI and Swiss exporters are working together
The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) was actively involved in 280 cases of misuse of ‘Swissness’ in 2020. The IPI consistently takes action against any wrongful use of the Swiss coat of arms and has goods destroyed at customs. Private and state players have now come together in a new association in order to better represent the interests of the Swiss economy in the fight against ‘Swissness’ free riders abroad.
Statutory regulations have been in force since 1 January 2017 for products and services that producers want to promote with ‘Swissness’, such as with a Swiss cross or a ‘Swiss Made’ label, for example. The aim of these rules is to protect the ‘Swiss’ brand from misuse and secure companies that produce in Switzerland an important long-term competitive advantage. The ‘Swissness’ legislation generates 1.4 billion Swiss francs annually for the Swiss economy, and free riders at home and abroad also want to profit from this.
Following a drop in previous years, the number of cases of ‘Swissness’ misuse in Switzerland reached an all-time high in 2020, with the IPI being actively involved in 280 cases. It is receiving an increasing amount of relevant information on this matter from the public, who regard ‘Swissness’ as a joint asset and are troubled when the Swiss cross is unjustly used.
Customs destroys goods bearing the Swiss coat of arms at the request of the IPI
The Swiss coat of arms is reserved by law solely and exclusively for the Swiss Confederation and – unlike the Swiss cross – may not be used for commercial purposes. Customs seizes goods bearing the Swiss coat of arms and destroys them at the request of the IPI. Since the ‘Swissness’ legislation was introduced, this procedure has led to the destruction of ten import deliveries. Any misuse of ‘Swissness’ is therefore being effectively curbed in Switzerland in collaboration with the Federal Customs Administration.
The Swissness Enforcement association – a strong alliance to defend the ‘Swiss’ brand
What works well domestically, must become better abroad. To legally enforce ‘Swissness’ outside of Switzerland, forces need to be combined. This is evidenced by a study published by the Federal Council in December 2020. Because Swiss laws only apply in Switzerland, exporters of goods, foodstuffs and of services, cannot benefit from the ‘Swissness’ premium abroad if Swiss indications of source can also be used by unauthorised persons there.
Individual trade associations have been fighting back for years, while companies and the IPI have been also been fighting back individually against the wrongful use of the Swiss cross and the Swiss coat of arms. The most important players in the legal enforcement of ‘Swissness’ have now founded the association Swissness Enforcement in order to monitor the markets globally and together establish country-specific instruments to combat such misuse. ‘Swissness’ can only be upheld as a joint asset if everyone is committed to doing so. This is the view of the authors of the study on the legal enforcement of ‘Swissness’ at home and abroad. The public-private partnership Swissness Enforcement has met with broad approval among the ‘Swissness’ users consulted.
- Statistics on the legal enforcement of ‘Swissness’ in a year-on-year comparison
- Further information on the role of the IPI in enforcing “Swissness”
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"