In what has come to be seen as a ‘David versus Goliath’ battle over the rightful ownership of the Swiss M-Watch trademark, the Commercial Court of Zurich ruled in favour of watch-manufacturer Mondaine last month in its battle against Switzerland’s largest retailer Migros. However, the dispute looks as if it will continues to tick over for some time yet, as the retailer has now appealed against the ruling to Switzerland’s Federal Court.

The dispute concerns the right to the M-Watch trademark and brand, a value-priced collection of fashion watches, which have sold approximately six million copies in Switzerland since their launch in 1983. The hallmark of the collection is the Official Swiss Railway watch, which is based on the Swiss Railway Station Clock, created by Swiss designer and engineer Hans Hilfiker.

Trademark infringement

Since 1983, Mondaine has provided this Railway-inspired timepiece to Migros for sale in its Swiss-wide chain of supermarkets; however, the agreement came to an end in April 2010 after Migros attempted to register a trademark for the ‘M-Watch’ brand at the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI). Mondaine considered this to be an unacceptable infringement on the good faith of their partnership of many years and ceased the agreement, positing that it was the rightful owner of the M-Watch trademark and Mondaine’s actions amounted to infringement of that right.

Mondaine recorded its ownership of the M-Watch trademark on the Swiss Federal Trademark Register back in 1985, and the watch’s packaging and accompanying documents all clearly state that M-Watch is a registered trademark belonging to Mondaine. Nonetheless, Migros attempted to argue that the creator of the M-Watch brand was in fact Peter Arnold, former head of Migros, who they say came up with the idea in 1983 and commissioned Mondaine to manufacture it on their behalf. According to the retailer, it was for this reason that the original watches featured Migros’s favoured font – the ‘M’ in Arial typeface, typical of the Migros supermarket chain.

Ruling in favour of Mondaine

Zurich’s Commercial Court rejected this argument in late February 2013, ruling in Mondaine’s favour in all the main points of the case, including ownership of the M-Watch trademark. It also found that Switzerland’s largest retailer had no right to sell watches produced by other suppliers under the name ‘M-Watch’. Migros is currently appealing against the ruling.