The ‘Swiss’ brand is adequately protected
Bern, 18.12.2020 - The legal criteria for the long-term protection of ‘Swissness’ are fulfilling their purpose. This has been confirmed in studies commissioned by the Federal Council. They are adding value to the Swiss economy and are also leading to a decrease in cases of ‘Swissness’ misuse, particularly within Switzerland. However, in a report approved on 18 December 2020, the Federal Council sees potential for action in enforcement abroad and in dealing with the exceptions for foodstuffs.
Since 1 January 2017, statutory regulations have been in force for products and services that producers wish to advertise with the Swiss cross or Swiss Made, for example. The aim of these regulations is to better protect the ‘Swiss’ brand from free riders and to secure an important long-term competitive advantage for companies that manufacture in Switzerland.
The ‘Swissness’ legislation generates over one billion Swiss francs annually for the Swiss economy
The studies, compiled by independent consulting and economic research agencies, show that the ‘Swissness’ legislation has an overall moderately positive impact on the Swiss economy. The calculated net macroeconomic benefit of the revision, i.e. after deducting the newly incurred costs for compliance with the legal requirements, is at least 0.2 percentage points of the annual economic performance (gross domestic product). In absolute terms, this corresponds to 1.4 billion Swiss francs or 163 Swiss francs per capita per year. This also includes indirect effects because, along with the producers, other economic stakeholders such as suppliers and exporters benefit from the new legislation and therefore contribute to the above-mentioned economic benefit.
Study authors identify need for action abroad and in the foodstuffs sector
With regard to the enforcement of the ‘Swissness’ legislation, companies from all sectors have reported a decrease in domestic cases of misuse of ‘Swissness’, due in part to increased awareness. As the measures possible in Switzerland to combat misuse are not applicable abroad, it is particularly difficult to enforce the protection of indications of source in other countries. The authors of the studies therefore recommend expanding the network of bilateral agreements. They have also identified additional potential for improvement in terms of the information available and enforcing the law in cooperation with associations and sectors.
According to the authors, the legal criteria for industrial products and services do not need to be changed. In the foodstuffs sector, however, there is a certain need for action. While ‘Swissness’ is quite important for the marketing of foodstuffs, at the same time, companies are rather critical of how it is implemented. In this regard, the authors suggest using the domestic value added instead of the proportion of domestic raw material, which is the case for industrial products. Such a standardised criterion for foodstuffs and industrial products had previously been proposed by the Federal Council when the legislation was first introduced. However, the proposal was not very well received, particularly by agricultural and consumer organisations as well as food producers. Alternatively, they recommend that the procedure for granting exceptions in the foodstuffs sector should be made more transparent.
Federal Council sees no need for revision
Based on the results of the studies, the Federal Council has concluded that the new ‘Swissness’ legislation is achieving its overall objective. Therefore, from the Council’s perspective, no substantial changes to the system are required. The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) and the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) will examine concrete measures for the areas where the evaluation has identified potential for improvement. For example, for the exceptions in the foodstuffs sector, amendments will be made at ordinance level and collaboration with the affected groups will be intensified.
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The Federal Council
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