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Working in EuropeIntellectual Property RightsSwitzerland

Intellectual Property Rights


Intellectual property is legally protected from imitation.

In the property rights sector a differentiation is made between copyright (protection of works in literature, arts and computer programmes) and commercial protection rights (patents, brands, designs).

In principle it is important that you as a researcher ask your employer at an early stage about the handling of intellectual property, patents, and inventions. Please contact the responsible person, i.e. at the department for knowledge and technology transfer at your future host institution.


Protection in Switzerland

A patent is an exclusive right granted for the protection of inventions during a limited period of up to 20 years. Patents are granted for new inventions, whether products or processes, that offer a new technical solution or provide a new way of doing something.

In return for this limited monopoly, the owner of a patent must disclose the invention to the public in the patent application.

A patent is a territorial right and is effective within the national boundaries of the country for which it was granted.

Inventors must file a patent application since registration is a requirement in order to obtain patent protection.

The legal basis is defined in the Federal Act on Patents for Inventions (Patents Act, PatA) and in the Patent Ordinance (Patentverordnung, PatV).

Protection abroad

You have three possibilities to protect your invention abroad:

  • Direct registration in the respective country

  • European Registration: European Patent Office (EPO)

  • International Registration

  • Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)


Protection in Switzerland

A legal trademark is a sign that distinguishes the goods or services of one enterprise from those of others. Protection is valid for 10 years, but it can be extended repeatedly for periods of 10 years.

In Switzerland, brands can be protected in two different ways under the Federal Act on the Protection of Trade Marks and Indications of Source (Trade Mark Protection Act, TmPA):

  • You can register a brand for protection in Switzerland (ige│ipi).

  • If you have already registered a brand abroad, you can extend the protection to Switzerland. (international brand). The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva is responsible for registration and administration of international brands.

Protection abroad

If your trademark is registered for protection in Switzerland, you can extend protection to other countries. There are three possibilities:

  • Direct registration in a specific country

  • Regional registration you can protect your trademark in all the countries belonging to that region. For example, filing at the EUIPO gives you protection in all EU Member States simultaneously.

  • International registration, Madrid System (122 states or regional entities including members of the EU, the majority of Eastern European countries, the USA, Russia, China, Japan, Australia)


A design is the visible form of a two- or three-dimensional object (patterns, such as fabric designs / models such as tooth brushes). It can be protected when it is new, distinguished from prior forms in significant points and is more than just that which would be functionally necessary for the object.

Protection in Switzerland

A design can be protected for up to 25 years.

Protection abroad

  • Direct registration in a specific country
    Get informed on the websites of the national offices for intellectual property.

  • International registration corresponding to The Hague System
    The Hague System provides a practical solution for registering up to 100 designs in over 65 territories through filing one single application.

  • Design protection in the European Union
    Registration at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)


Copyright protects creations of literature and art, which have a unique character. This includes literature, music, pictures, sculptures, films, operas, ballets, choreographies and pantomimes. Computer programmes are also protected under the same regulations.

The Federal Act on Copyright and Related Rights (Copyright Act, CopA) further provides regulations for

  • the rights of the performers (musicians, actors,….) in respect of their performance or its fixation.

  • the rights of the producer of the medium who is entitled to an equitable share of the remuneration of the performers.

Further information

In Switzerland

In Europe

Whether you need personal support on a specific IP issue on the European Level or want to be informed about the latest developments in the world of IP and innovation, or are interested in a training session on IP – the European IP Helpdesk is the right partner to turn to.

The European IPR Helpdesk supports IP capacity building along the full scale of IP practices: from awareness to strategic use and successful exploitation. This strengthening of IP competencies focuses on EU SMEs, participants and candidates in EU-funded projects, and EU innovation stakeholders for an increased translation of IP into the EU innovation ecosystem.