Intellectual Property in Switzerland – the Basics

Dr. Martin Eckert | Dr. Andreas Glarner

Intellectual property ("IP" or "IPR") protects applications of ideas and information that are of commercial value. Intellectual property rights thus grant to their owner certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, i.e. musical, literary or artistic works and software; inventions; signs, labels, etc. Under Swiss law, IPRs are subject to federal law and also regulated through a wide range of international treaties. A holder of IPRs is authorized to prevent any unauthorized use of its intellectual property and to exploit such property, in particular by licensing it to third parties. The types of intellectual property regulated by the Swiss legislator are copyrights, trademarks, patents, design, plant variety and topographical rights. Other rights typically protected by intellectual property law (trade secrets, the right of passing off, trade names, etc.) are addressed to in the Swiss Unfair Competition Act or special legislation. Thereby, the Swiss system differs between unregistered and registered IPRs. There is no need for a registration or any kind of notification to obtain copyright protection. Patent, trademark as well as design rights only arise with the proper registration with the Swiss Institute for Intellectual Property. 

Intellectual Property in Switzerland

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