Protection of geographical indications - Consultation on accession to the Geneva ActBundesrat intends to accede to the Geneva Act in order to guarantee a high level of protection for Swiss geographical indications

Swiss geographical indications should receive a higher level of protection internationally. On 22 May 2019, the Federal Council opened consultations on Switzerland's accession to the Geneva Act. Accession would also entail some legislative amendments to the MSchG and the MSchV.

Zuger Kirsch is just one example of a recognised and protected geographical indication. The success of goods with such geographical indications is based on sustainable distribution channels and carries Switzerland’s reputation for quality and exclusivity out into the world.

In order to protect the economic value of Swiss geographical indications, protection against abusive imitations is also required abroad. So far, however, international trademark protection of geographical indications has proved cumbersome. Whether geographical indications can be protected at all depends on the legislation of the respective foreign country. Swiss producers then have to submit a separate application in each individual country. With Switzerland’s accession to the Geneva Act, Swiss producers of geographical indications could obtain a high level of protection through a simple and inexpensive averaging procedure at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) by requiring a single international registration for all member states.

The Geneva Act of 2015 is a separate treaty under international law and modernises the 1958 Lisbon Agreement on the protection of designations of origin and their international registration. For example, the Geneva Act introduces two important innovations compared to the Lisbon Agreement. On the one hand, the system is extended to all geographical indications and no longer restricted to designations of origin. On the other hand, intergovernmental organisations such as the EU can also join.

The EU has already launched the accession procedure and on 14 March 2019 the Commission, Parliament and Council agreed on modalities for the accession of the EU and its Member States. For Switzerland, the accession of the EU in particular makes the Lisbon system attractive in order to protect its geographical indications on the EU market at low cost.

Switzerland’s accession to the Geneva Act of the Lisbon system would also include a partial revision of the Trademark Protection Act (MSchG) of 28 August 1992 in order to form the individual legal basis for the international registration of geographical indications.

The Federal Council proposes that Switzerland accede to the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Designations of Origin and Geographical Indications for participation by Switzerland in the Lisbon system administered by WIPO. On 22 March 2019, the Federal Council opened the consultation procedure. It will last until 20 September 2019.