One of the most important aspects when starting a new business in Switzerland is creating a unique trademark, that can be easily associated with the products or services provided on the Swiss market or abroad. Furthermore, a unique trademark serves the main purpose of establishing a brand identity and make it easily recognizable by the general public.
There are regulations put in place to guide entrepreneurs in establishing unique trademarks acceptable for use in Switzerland. Entrepreneurs and legal entities who want to open a company in Switzerland would do best to have trademarks whose uniqueness also extends to international trademarks. Trademarks can be any graphical representation that meets the set criteria for novelty and distinctiveness. The authority responsible for the registration of trademarks in Switzerland is the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property..
Under the Swiss legislation, any type graphic representation can be used as a unique trademark. Words, combinations of letters, numbers, logos, three-dimensional forms, slogans and combinations of these elements, as well as series of tones (which can be used as acoustic trademarks) can be registered as unique trademarks.
The registration process of Swiss trademarks
The first step to register a unique trademark in Switzerland is to file an application for the registration of the respective trademark. The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property performs a formal and detailed examination of the proposed trademark. After the examination, depending on the results, the trademark can be either entered into the register or it can be refused. If a trademark is registered, it will be published at Swissreg and the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property will send the certificate of registration to the applicant.
After the trademark is published on Swissreg, it is necessary to allow a period of three months for opposition – which means that the trademark can be disputed or claimed by others who can provide proof that it belongs to them. According to the Swiss trademark legislation, owners of prior trademarks similar or identical to the new trademark published can file opposition proceedings within this time limit.
If no opposition is filed, the unique trademark registration is definitive. Therefore, the unique trademark registration process takes approximately between 1 to 6 months from the filing date, if there are no objections or oppositions from third parties.
Distinctive trademark in Switzerland
As mentioned above, one of the most important qualities of a unique trademark is its distinctiveness. This means that entrepreneurs and businesses that want to operate on the Swiss market must create a distinctive trademark which respects certain characteristics.
Descriptive words are not allowed for products or services that are directly correlated with the respective words. However, descriptive words may be used for an industry field that is not directly related with the meaning of the words.
Common words can be used for the industry fields they describe as long as there is also another element added next to them, such as the name of a company or the name of an individual.
These rules are applicable for all three national languages used in Switzerland – German, Italian and French, but descriptive word from the English language are also included.
Duration and renewal of Swiss trademarks
All Swiss trademarks are valid from 10 years starting from the filing date. Subsequent renewals are possible for another 10 years for an indefinite number of times.
Benefits of unique trademarks in Switzerland
The owner of a registered trademark in Switzerland has the exclusive right to use certain signs for specific products and services in the country. At the same time, the owner of a registered trademark has the possibility to grant someone else the right to use the trademark for a certain period. In addition, a registered trademark grants the owner the right to prevent other from using similar or identical signs for the same or similar products and services.
Classification of trademark protected products and services
In order to register a unique trademark in Switzerland, the international classification of products and services known as “the Nice Agreement” is applied. The applications for unique trademark registrations may include more than one class of products and/or services.