Intellectual property in Switzerland was designed to protect the commercial value of ideas and information. In Switzerland intellectual property is protected by federal laws but also by numerous international treaties. Swiss intellectual property comprises the protection of copyrights, trademarks, patents, designs, topography but also trade secrets and trade names that are subject to the Unfair Competition Act. There is no need to apply for copyright protection in Switzerland, but patents, trademarks and designs must be registered with the International Institute for Intellectual Property in Switzerland (IFPI).
Copyrights are protected by the Swiss Copyright and Neighboring Rights issued in 1992 and 1993. Copyright protection in Switzerland refers to any unique intellectual creations such as literature, music, pictures or sculptures. Computer software also falls under the regulations of intellectual property protection in Switzerland. The neighboring rights refer to the extension of intellectual property protection for artists, sounds or recordings that have emerged during the last years.
There are certain intellectual works that will not be covered by copyright protection. These works are usually laws, court judgments, official protocols or documents used in educational purposes.
Copyright protection grants moral and economic rights to their owners and expires 70 years after the author’s death. Software is protected for 50 years after the author’s death.
Patents are protected by the Swiss Federal Act on Patents for Inventions issued in 1954 and by the Ordinance on Patents for Inventions issued in 1977. According to the Swiss laws, patents are represented by any inventions or improvements brought to existing technologies and they are protected by the government. The inventor is given a patent registration valid only in Switzerland. Patent protection offers the inventor the right to stop others from using his or her invention for commercial purposes. Patent infringements are judged by cantonal civil courts in Switzerland.
A patent has 20-years validity, except for medicines or pesticides that can be protected for longer periods of time in Switzerland.
Trademarks are protected by the Swiss Federal Law on the Protection of Trademarks and Indications of Source and by the Ordinance on the Protection of Trademarks both issued in 1992. In Switzerland, any graphic sign such as words, colors, letters, images, numbers or slogans used separately or in any combination can represent a trademark and be treated as such as long as they are registered with the Swiss Institute for Intellectual Property. Swiss trademarks receive 10 years validity and after this period can be renewed for an indefinite amount of time.
In Switzerland any two or three-dimensional objects using lines, colors, surfaces, materials or contours can be registered as a design. Designs are protected by the Swiss Federal Law on Designs issued in 2001 and by the Ordinance of Designs issued in 2002. Designs are protected in Switzerland if they are new, differ from previous creations and are not indecent. Foreigners wanting to apply for design protection require the help of a Swiss law firm. Designs are protected for 25 years at most and the renewal can be made every 5 years.
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