Geographical indications – Swiss producers should benefit from a simple international protection system

Press Release, The Federal Council, 22.05.2019

Bündnerfleisch, Formaggio d'alpe ticinese or the designation "Swiss” for watches – geographical indications offer an important competitive edge in the global market. This is why it should in future be possible for Swiss producers to obtain protection for such indications in all member states of the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement via a simple, cost-effective application procedure. The Federal Council therefore submitted the item of business for consultation at its meeting on 22 May 2019. The consultation procedure will run until 20 September 2019.

The key points at a glance:

  • Swiss producers should in future be able to register geographical indications in several states simultaneously via a simple procedure.
  • The Federal Council has submitted Switzerland’s accession to the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement for consultation.
  • The accession would make it easier for Swiss producers to protect their products internationally.

Bündnerfleisch, Tête-de-Moine, Zuger Kirsch and Rigi Kirsch, as well as Swiss for watches, are examples of recognised geographical indications. They protect regional names and traditional designations of products whose quality and main characteristics are due to their geographical origin. Amongst those who benefit from this are the cherry tree plantations typical of the central regions around the Rigi mountain and in Zug, and the numerous cheese factories in the Swiss central plateau and mountainous regions.

Whether these geographical indications can be protected abroad depends on the legislation of each country, or – where one exists – on a bilateral agreement regarding protection. Currently, Swiss producers have to submit a separate application in each individual country to protect their geographical indication in that country. Switzerland’s accession to the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement would enable Swiss producers to obtain a high level of protection in all member states through a simple and cost-effective application procedure via the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The 2015 Geneva Act is an independent international treaty. It modernises the 1958 Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration and broadens the scope of the agreement to include geographical indications. Switzerland has not ratified the Lisbon Agreement.

The entry into force of the Geneva Act, which requires ratification by at least five contracting parties, is expected to take place in 2019. If Switzerland belongs to one of the first groups of member states to accede, it will consolidate its position within the new protection system. As well as the ratification of the Geneva Act, the consultation also concerns changes to be made to the Trade Mark Protection Act (TmPA).

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