The EFTA Free Trade Agreements provide standards for the protection of intellectual property rights, including measures to enforce these rights. Adequate and enforceable protection of intellectual property is a key interest of Switzerland and its innovation-driven economy. The provisions for the protection of intellectual property are based on the principles of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
As an innovative country, Switzerland is dependent on adequate protection of intellectual property. The expansion of free trade therefore also requires improved protection of the intellectual property rights of the products and services exchanged. In recent years, the protection of intellectual property rights has become increasingly important in global trade.
Around 80% of Swiss exports are based on intellectual property rights in one form or another. Patent protection is important, for example, for the pharmaceutical and chemical sectors as well as the machinery industry. Sectors such as the food or watchmaking industries, on the other hand, depend on good protection for their brands. In general, EFTA's free trade agreements cover all intellectual property rights, in particular patents, test data protection, designs, copyright, trademarks, indications of source and the protection of "swissness" and geographical indications.
The text of the agreement is based on international standards and creates legal certainty for right holders through transparent and predictable rules. The chapter on intellectual property rights also contains a section on enforcement, such as border measures. The provisions on intellectual property rights are subject to the dispute settlement mechanism of the Free Trade Agreement. Further information on intellectual property in Switzerland can be found here.
FAQs on intellectual property rights
The chapter on intellectual property builds on existing international treaties, in particular the TRIPS Agreement. It clarifies certain provisions contained therein and specifies points that are not fully regulated in multilateral agreements. In addition, it can take up other concerns of the contracting parties. Finally, within the framework of the FTA, the legal situation of the contracting states can be reflected more precisely, and therefore more fully and comprehensibly for economic players, than in multilateral agreements.
The FTA thus offers greater legal security to holders of intellectual property rights and consequently promotes trade and investment between the partner countries. The broader legal framework created by the FTA also includes provisions on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, which are more detailed than in multilateral agreements, such as in the case of border measures.
Finally, the inclusion of the chapter on intellectual property under the dispute settlement mechanism of the FTA provides an additional way of enforcing guaranteed rights and solving problems more quickly through the bilateral channel.
Furthermore, institutions established under the FTA, such as the Joint Committee, serve as an additional platform to address problems and challenges in the field of intellectual property and to promote cooperation between the partner countries.
A trademark is a protected sign by which a company distinguishes its products or services from those of other companies. In Switzerland, according to the law, a trademark can be any sign that can be represented graphically: Words, combinations of letters or numbers, figurative representations (e.g. logos), three-dimensional forms, slogans, combinations of these elements or also acoustic trademarks consisting of short melodies. In the FTAs, Switzerland wants to ensure that the contracting parties use the same definition and guarantee adequate and effective trademark protection. It pays particular attention to well-known and famous trademarks, which are also known outside Switzerland and are therefore more likely to be abused (free-riding). Switzerland wants to protect these trademarks, even if they are not registered in the partner countries, or ensure that protection extends beyond the products and services for which these trademarks are registered. The trademarks of many Swiss companies known for the quality of their products, e.g. in the food sector or in the high-value product segment, but also of companies providing renowned services, are internationally known and are therefore better protected through FTAs. The FTAs also contain provisions for the enforcement of trademark rights. These include border customs measures such as the confiscation of goods at the border. Such measures are important, especially for products that are frequently counterfeited, such as watches.
A patent protects a technical invention and usually grants an exclusive right of use for a term of 20 years. Certain criteria need to be met for an invention to be patentable. Specifically, the invention has to be novel, involve an inventive step and be capable of industrial application.
Over 130,000 patents are currently in force in Switzerland, making the country the world leader in terms of number of patents per head of population. Patents are a major incentive for innovation because they allow Swiss companies investing in innovation to protect their inventions. Patent protection is thus important to many sectors of the Swiss economy, particularly the machinery industry and the chemicals and pharmaceuticals sectors, but also watchmaking and precision instruments, for instance.
As the protection of innovations and patents is very important for the Swiss economy, the inclusion of provisions on patents in the FTA is intended to guarantee adequate protection in the countries with which Switzerland trades. For example, the relevant provisions in the FTAs lay down conditions for patentability and provide for certain exceptions. This ensures sufficient legal clarity with regard to the patentability of inventions in the various contracting parties. At the same time, these patent provisions establish a framework that helps create a climate conducive to trade, investment and innovation as well as promoting the exchange of information. In the healthcare sector, giving inventions adequate protection is also crucial for developing new drugs and thus for promoting the development of better technologies.
In addition, FTAs contain provisions on enforcing patent rights, including border measures.
Geographical indications (GIs) are names or signs that designate products with characteristics and qualities linked to their geographical origin. These products are made using traditional local methods. Some examples from Switzerland include St. Galler Kalbsbratwurst (veal sausage), Tête de Moine, Gruyère (both cheeses) and Chocolat suisse (Swiss chocolate) or also wine designations.
GIs promote trade in local and regional specialities and are thus an attractive way to promote sustainable economic development at regional level. They make specialities and high-quality products more attractive, including on international markets, for both Switzerland and its partner countries.
Switzerland strives to ensure an adequate degree of protection in its FTAs. In particular, it does this by stipulating a high level of protection not only for protected designations of wines and spirits, as per the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), but also for other products, such as cheese, other foodstuffs and non-agricultural products.
In its FTAs, Switzerland also sets out to guarantee protection for its indications of origin, such as “Swiss”, “Switzerland”, the names of its cantons and regions and the Swiss cross. In addition, it includes provisions to prevent these indications from being used on products or services in a way that makes the consumer believe that they originated in Switzerland when they did not. FTAs thus help to preserve the high-quality reputation of Swiss products and services on international markets.
FTAs also contain provisions on enforcing these rights, including border measures.
Last modification 10.09.2020