What a trademark is and how it can be protected

The trademark helps a company’s products or services stand out from other companies’ products and services. It therefore needs to be distinctive and not misleading. 

The function of a trademark is to distinguish companies’ products and services. For example, it may take the form of words (such as Breitling), images or logos (such as the CFF logo) or consist of a combination of verbal and visual elements. 

Clarify what you are protecting

A trademark only protects the products and services that you specify at the time of registration and for which you intend to use the trademark (e.g. the fictitious trademark Beltina is registered as a bicycle and bicycle repair trademark). As proprietor of the trademark, you can prevent any third party from identifying products which are identical or similar to yours with a trademark likely to be confused with yours. You can extend the protection as often as you wish. 

Conditions to be met

The following factors should be taken into account when registering a trademark:

  • The trademark must be distinctive. It should be perceived as a reference to your company, which is not the case with a descriptive sign (“4x4” to designate four-wheel drive vehicles, for example). The trademark should not be purely advertising in nature (e.g. “super” to designate bicycles).
  • The trademark should not mislead, infringe current law or be contrary to morality. Calling a trademark “Beltina Suisse” for French bicycles for example, would be likely to mislead. Such a trademark can only be registered if the bicycles in question actually originate in Switzerland and if a reference to this is made in the list of products. 

Searches

If the trademark is excessively similar to trademarks, domain names or business names already registered and if this could generate a risk of confusion, there could be conflict. As the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) does not carry out any checks in this area, before registering your trademark, you must carry out searches to ascertain whether identical or similar signs are already protected, possibly using the services of a trademark adviser.

Even if you do not intend on registering your trademark, it may be wise to ascertain, by carrying out searches, whether any competitors hold prior rights which may give rise to conflict. 

Costs

Protection of a trademark in Switzerland for three classes of products or services for 10 years costs CHF 550 (2015 figures). Extending this protection costs CHF 700.

Good to know

Registering a business name in the Trade Register does not protect the business name as a trademark. For this reason, it may be worthwhile registering the business name in the trademark register as well.


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Last modification 08.08.2018

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