A more attractive Swiss patent system for SMEs and individual inventors

Bern, 14.10.2020 - The Federal Council wants to modernise the patent examination procedure. It opened the consultation procedure on the partial revision of the Patents Act on 14 October 2020. The aim is to adapt the Swiss patent system to international standards and to make it more attractive for SMEs and individual inventors, in particular. The consultation period runs until 1 February 2021.

Technical inventions can be protected by patents. However, the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) currently examines patent applications for only a few legal requirements, such as whether the invention is contrary to public policy or morality. The IPI does not examine whether an invention is novel and inventive, in other words, innovative. The validity of Swiss patents therefore remains uncertain.

Under the proposed revision, the IPI will in future examine applications for all patentability requirements. This is in line with international standards and leads to increased clarity and legal certainty for patent owners and third parties. As a result, it will be more difficult to challenge Swiss patents and they will be able to be enforced more easily.

It is already possible to apply for a fully examined European patent with the European Patent Office and to subsequently extend protection to Switzerland. However, this route is particularly cumbersome and costly for SMEs and individual inventors.

New utility model - the cheap patent alternative

The partial revision introduces a new form of protection for technical inventions with what is known as a utility model. In other countries, this is often called a "petty patent". It is granted without a substantive examination of the invention and therefore more quickly and cheaply than a patent. Its term of protection of ten years is half of the maximum lifespan of a patent. Innovators therefore have a choice of protection and can better tailor their IP strategy to their economic needs and resources.

Like the patent, the utility model also qualifies for the ‘patent box', which provides tax relief.

With this partial revision, the Federal Council is fulfilling the motion ‘In favour of a modern Swiss patent' submitted on 21 March 2019. The consultation period on the bill will run until 1 February 2021.

Address for enquiries

Alexander Pfister, Head of Legal Services - Industrial Property Rights, Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property IPI, T +41 31 377 74 88, alexander.pfister@ipi.ch


The Federal Council

Federal Department of Justice and Police

Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property