The Federal Law on the Protection of Trademarks and Indications
of Source of August 28, 1992, and the Ordinance of the Protection of
Trademarks of December 23, 1992, were amended by the Ordinance of
May 17, 1995, which entered into force on July 1, 1995.
Who May Apply?
Any person and any private or public entity may apply for
A trademark owner who has no domicile or seat in Switzerland
must designate a representative established in Switzerland, who
should be recorded on the trademark register, to represent him or her
in any formalities or proceedings under the trademark law, or in local
court proceedings concerning the validity of registrations belonging to
owners outside of Switzerland.
What Can Be Registered?
As a general rule, any sign capable of distinguishing goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises can be
registered as a trademark.
Translation of a trademark is not required. The trademark is
protected in the form it is registered. Trademarks in scripts not used
in Switzerland (e.g., Arab, Chinese, etc.) are registrable. Their protection,
however, is limited to the script alone as long as the average
Swiss cannot read it. If the phonetics are sought to be protected as
well in such a case, the trademark should be transcribed and
registered in Latin letters also.
Three-dimensional trademarks can be registered, as long as their
form is neither the essential characteristic of the product nor
determined by technical necessities.
Sound marks can also be registered, if they can be identified graphically.
What Cannot Be Registered?
Trademark protection is not available to signs that belong to the
public domain (descriptive signs), except where they have become accepted
as a trademark for the goods or services for which they are
claimed (secondary meaning); shapes that constitute the nature of the
goods themselves or shapes of the goods or of their packaging that are
technically necessary; misleading signs; or signs contrary to public
policy, morality, or applicable law.
Whether a trademark is not registrable for being a generic (descriptive)
term is always decided according to the three official languages
of Switzerland (German, French, Italian) and languages understood
by the average Swiss (e.g., English). If, therefore, a foreign trademark
is a generic term in one of these languages, it will not be registered.
Trademark protection is also not available for signs identical or
similar to an earlier trademark and intended for the same or similar
goods or services if a risk of confusion results therefrom. However,
such relative grounds for refusal are not examined ex officio. They will
be subject to opposition proceedings or trademark infringement
Producers, manufacturers, or merchants who are closely connected
with each other economically may also lodge the same trademark for
goods which do not differ from each other by their nature, provided
that the effect of use of the mark does not deceive the public and is
not contrary to public interest in any other way.
The name of the town, locality, region, or country which gives its
reputation to a product is considered an indication of origin; the right
to use such a name belongs to every manufacturer or producer in such
a town, locality, region, or country, and also to the purchaser of the
Power of attorney, not legalized.
Ten reproducible pictures of the mark, maximum 8 x 8 cm.; five'additional
pictures in color if colors claimed (pictures not required for
ordinary word marks).
List of goods and services.
Only if requested by the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual
Property: Certificate of applicant's domicile or place of business issued
by the competent local authority (if recorded in the Register of Commerce,
certificate of Registry), or that applicant resides in Switzerland.
For a collective mark, in addition, a copy of its bylaws with
confirmation of their validity and regulations, if any, for the use of
such collective marks. Honorary awards mentioned in the mark must be substantiated by
documentary evidence. The applicant must furnish any other documents
the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property may require.
Note: All documents must not be older than one year.
Convention: Priority must be specifically claimed when filing the application
and supported by adequate documents from the authority
responsible for the initial filing.
Evaluation & Review
Applications for the registration of trademark must be filed with
the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (the Institute) located at
Berne. Each application is examined as to form and authorization (see
5 156:6); a trademark search report informing the applicant of identical
or similar prior registrations is issued only upon request and payment
of a fee.
During the application proceedings, a trademark may be amended
or completely changed, in which case the application date is postponed
to the filing date of the last amendment. No supplemental fees are
Alterations of a registered trademark, or to its list of goods or services,
which were often done through premature renewal, are no longer
permitted. A new registration is necessary.
Absolute grounds of refusal regarding trademark applications (e.g.,
lack of distinctiveness, misleading signs, and signs contrary to public
order or morality) will be checked ex officio by the Institute.
The registration period is now 10 years from the filing date. There
will be no reexamination if the registration concerned violates any
absolute ground of refusal. Renewal must be granted automatically
once the required fee is paid, and it can only be effected during the 12
months preceding or the six months following the date of expiration.
A trademark registration can be invalidated, totally or partially, by
court proceedings, on the basis of unjustified nonuse during the last
five years. The party claiming invalidation because of nonuse must establish
the credibility of the nonuse, after which the owner of the
registration can prove the contrary.
Under the revised law, any use in connection with the goods andlor
services concerned is recognized.
It is possible to obtain the assistance of the Swiss customs authorities
to temporarily detain imported goods bearing trademarks that
infringe the rights of the rightful owner in Switzerland.