Registration of Trademarks in Switzerland
Conflicts over distinguishing marks or phrases often arise in the world of business. When dealing with unique products and services, registering intellectual property is essential. Swiss law covers trademark ownership and also establishes a basis for a claim internationally.
Understanding Swiss law on trademarks makes the registration process easier to follow through. However, with the help of seasoned local experts from SIGTAX, you don’t have to worry about all that. We’ll make sure everything is done right and you don’t necessarily have to travel to Switzerland. 
The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property handles all registration matters. The process is relatively quick, taking at least six working days to validate claims and begin the registration process. Once a trademark certificate is approved, all one has to do is keep up the registration status to ensure their intellectual property is protected by law.
The legislation in place for this practice is the Trade Mark Protection Act. Swiss law affords protection within Switzerland and is also similar to those in most jurisdictions across Europe. Thanks to the international agreements in place regarding intellectual property, it is also possible to protect a Swiss trademark at the EU level.
How to file for a trademark
Obtaining a trademark requires filing an application that meets the set legal requirements. Upon completion, a processing fee is also required. It is possible to request a two-month fast-track of the registration process subject to additional fees, of course. Check the going fees with the relevant authorities before getting started to avoid confusion.
The request for a trademark is filed with the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property, which verifies the claim. Before a registration certificate can be awarded, the trademark is published in the Official Gazette to allow other companies or individuals to oppose the registration. This part of the process can take up to three months. If there are no counter-claims, the trademark is issued to the applicant within a maximum of six months.
If another entity lays claim to the proposed trademark, a fresh application must be made. This must be done within five months in response to a provisional refusal.
When registering a trademark in Switzerland as a foreign citizen, the following items are required:
  • The appropriate trademark application form completed in either German, Italian or French
  • A photo of the trademark
  • A copy of the applicant’s identification documents(e.g. ID card, passport)
  • Proof of power of attorney (if the application is submitted on behalf of someone, e.g. by lawyers)
  • Proof of residence (individuals)
  • Legal address in the country (companies)
With the new ease of doing business measures in place, foreign investors need not necessarily be in Switzerland to register trademarks. Appointing SIGTAX seasoned local experts to process the application will help speed up the process, since you will have someone well-versed with Swiss law on your side.
Another hack businesses can use are SIGTAX virtual office services. A virtual office is considered a valid legal address for the purposes of acquiring trademark rights in Switzerland. If you are using Swiss legal services to register your business interests and obtain trademarks, all this can be arranged with minimum fuss.
Getting started
Do some research on the current legal requirements for registering a trademark before kick-starting the process. Better yet, enlist professional help from SIGTAX experts in Swiss trademark laws to avoid common and costly mistakes. Switzerland’s registration procedure is quite straightforward with clear set guidelines any investor can keep up with whether they are resident in the country or not.
What’s considered as a trademark in Switzerland?
To qualify for trademark protection, a sign must be graphically represented and utilized as a distinguishing marker for goods and services available on the Swiss market. Thus both two-dimensional and three-dimensional works can be trademarked.
Swiss law recognizes numbers, letters, words, slogans, colors and images for trademarks. Companies, startups included can request trademark protection on their distinctive slogans.
Tip: Make sure the graphic representation of the trademark or image submitted along with the application is unique and unmistakably clear.
A registered trademark is valid for ten years, after which it must be renewed again for another ten year period. Once protection is granted the first time, the trademark holder can continuously renew their exclusive rights for commercial use for as long as they need to. A renewal must be requested between twelve and six months before a trademark expires to get first preference. However, if the trademark is not used within the first five years of registration, companies risk losing said protections.
Trademark categories
During registration, applicants must specify what class their product in question falls under. Trademarks exist under three categories in Switzerland; namely:
Individual trademarks - differentiate the products of a Swiss registered company
Collective trademarks - set apart the products of an association of companies
Guarantee trademarks - distinguish products with unique qualities
Verifying trademarks
To avoid hiccups in the registration process, it is advisable to first verify your proposed trademark. This includes checking for similar trademarks - a sign has to be unique to be considered for trademarking.
A distinct trademark follows the following statues in English and any of Switzerland’s three official languages. First of all, a trademark should not consist of descriptive words directly associated with the products or services to be offered. For example, the word creamy cannot be trademarked for companies in the ice cream business. However, a business an industry where products are characteristically creamy can do so.
In addition, a descriptive word common to the industry in question can be trademarked, considering it is accompanied by unique wording such as the owner’s name—for example, Paula’s Creamy Delights.
The Federal Office of Intellectual Property can help you with verification exercises. Inquiries can be made directly to their offices where samples of all registered trademarks are readily accessible.
Extensive research should also be carried out to ensure the trademark is not considered offensive. A trademark can be refused if it contradicts Swiss values or legislation.