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Trade marks – First steps
What is a trade mark?
Legally, a trade mark is a protected sign which is used to distinguish the products or services of one business from another.
Basically, any graphic representations can be used as trade marks under the law: for example, words (e.g. Victorinox), combinations of letters (e.g. ABB), numericals (e.g. 501), graphic images (e.g. the SBB logo), three-dimensional forms (e.g. the Mercedes star), slogans (e.g. “Cats would buy Whiskas”), any combination of these elements, and a series of tones (acoustic trade marks, e.g. the Ricola jingle) as well as other signs.
Why protect a trade mark?
Registering a trade mark gives you the exclusive right to use a certain sign for specific goods and services or to grant someone else the right to use it (e.g. licensing). As a trade mark owner you can prevent others from using an identical or similar sign for the same or similar goods and services.
A few facts
- Trade mark registration fees in Switzerland are CHF 550 for three classes of goods and services for a period of 10 years.
- The 10-year term of protection can be renewed indefinitely.
- If there are no apparent problems, a trade mark is examined within six working days and then afterwards registered following payment of the fees. Please refer to our Newsletter 2008/12 (German or French ; pdf, 43 KB) concerning the requirements for an early examination and registration of these applications. In all other cases, we register a trade mark application generally within a maximum of three months after payment of the fees or send an objection within the same time limit.
Good to know
Make sure your sign is distinctive.
- Promotional or descriptive words (i.e. SUPER for automobiles or WATERPROOF for rain coats) cannot be registered as trade marks; they must remain available to the general public. Conditions for registration
Search before you register a trade mark.
- If you register a trade mark that is similar or identical to one that is already registered, your mark may infringe on the prior one. The owner of the prior trade mark can possibly even demand the cancellation of your mark and financial compensation. Because we do not determine whether your mark has already been registered in a similar or identical form at the time of application, it is important for you to do it (further information on third party rights and other laws).You can have earlier trade mark registrations searched for by a specialist.
Note that trade marks can also infringe on business and domain names.
Select your goods and service classes carefully.
- A trade mark is always protected only for certain classes of goods and services. When you register, you must indicate the goods and services for which you wish to register and use your trade mark. If you don’t use your trade mark for the products (or services) you claimed within five years of registration, you can lose your trade mark protection. (Protection for certain goods and services).
Consult a trade mark consultant.
- We would be glad to answer your questions about the registration procedure. If you are unsure about choosing a trade mark or your trade mark strategy, or you would like advice in an infringement case, consult a trade mark consultant.
Documents and further information:
- Envisioned. Created. Protected., an abbreviated guide to intellectual property. (order for free)
- Our brochure, Registering a Trade Mark (in German), contains everything you need to know about registering a trade mark in Switzerland (order for free).
- Invent, Produce, Market: Read about the roles patents, trade marks, designs, and copyrights can play in the innovation process in our Guide for Innovative and Creative Minds.
- www.promarca.ch The Swiss trade mark product association has an informative trade mark protection brochure (pdf, 2,52 MB) (in German or French) which can be downloaded.
- Frequently asked questions
- Info sheet on conflicting trade marks (in French (pdf 86 KB), German (pdf 85 KB) or Italian (pdf 82 KB))
- www.swissreg.ch The official publication of the Institute includes information about nationally registered trade marks.
Still have questions? We'd be happy to help.
Telephone +41 31 377 77 77
Fax +41 31 377 77 78
Email info@ipi .ch