All questions

Intellectual property

i Brand searchTrademarks

Registered Swedish trademarks are found in the database kept by the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV), EU trademarks can be searched using the register provided by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), and international trademarks can be identified using the search engine made available by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Where protection of a Swedish trademark is based on the use of the trademark, the trademarks are not included in any registers.

Company names

Swedish company names can be protected either by registration or by means of the use thereof. Searches for registered company names can be conducted using a search engine supplied by the Swedish Companies Registration Office.

Domains

In respect of domains, Swedish domain names (.se or .nu) can be identified using the search services provided by the Internet Foundation in Sweden (IIS).

The process for ascertaining whether there is a conflict follows the standard procedures for determining whether there is an intellectual property infringement.

ii Brand protection

There are four ways by which trademark protection can be obtained in Sweden; these consist of:

  1. a company registering a Swedish trademark via PRV;
  2. a company registering an EU trademark via EUIPO (with or without the assistance of PRV);
  3. c a company registering an international trademark via WIPO; and
  4. a company using the trademark in Sweden to such an extent that protection is granted by means of use.

Although protection of a trademark can be obtained by means of use, it is recommended that trademarks are registered, to minimise the risk of legal disputes regarding the rights to a trademark.

When applying for registration, the applicant shall attach a copy of the trademark and indicate the relevant services or goods, including classifications, for which it is to be registered. If registered, these indications will be important in determining the extent of the protection.

Company names are registered via the Companies Registration Office, and may be registered provided that neither an identical nor a very similar company name is already registered.

Domain names are registered via an IIS distribution agency.

iii Enforcement

A holder of an intellectual property right, or its licensors, as applicable, may assert the following remedies in the event of an infringement.

Court injunction

A court can impose an injunction requiring the allegedly infringing company to refrain from using the concerned right; such an injunction may also be accompanied by a fine. Where there is a risk that the value of the right may be derogated, a preliminary injunction may under certain circumstances be imposed.

Damages

In respect of claiming damages, the holder shall generally receive compensation for the use of the rights, and may also claim for damages arising from the infringement.

Information request

A court may also issue an order requiring an allegedly infringing company to provide certain information. This information generally concerns the distribution chain of the relevant product, and may be very useful in future proceedings.

Criminal sanctions

In the event an infringement is made intentionally or by gross negligence, an infringing person may be sentenced to pay a fine or to imprisonment.

iv Data protection, cybercrime, social media and e-commerce

When processing personal data, franchisors and franchisees shall comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which entered into force on 25 May 2018 in all EU Member States. In addition to the GDPR, where the processing is subject to Swedish law, the Swedish Data Protection Act and its supplementing provisions must be complied with. Main concerns include determining which of the parties is the data controller and the data processor respectively, as the franchise arrangement often necessitates common customer relationship management systems, and entail that the personal data collected are used for a variety of purposes. Securing the registered persons' consent to the processing is essential, and any processing to be carried out by a data processor on behalf of a data controller shall be regulated by a written contract entered into between the parties. Furthermore, there are strict provisions to be adhered to in terms of permitting transfers of personal data to countries outside the EU/EEA.

Where a franchisor or franchisee supplies information society services, the Swedish E-Commerce Act applies. Furthermore, in respect of sales to consumers where the agreement is entered into outside any business premises (e.g., in an e-commerce context), the Swedish Distance and Off-Premises Contracts Act applies. Both acts set forth detailed provisions on information to be provided to a consumer before an agreement is entered into.

Currently, there is no specific legislation in respect of cybercrime. However, the Swedish Penal Code contains certain provisions criminalising unlawful access, changes, deletions, additions or blocking of data for automatic processing.

Finally, the parties are obligated – in respect of any marketing activities throughout the franchise arrangement, including e-commerce – to abide by the Swedish Marketing Practices Act. In general, the Act prescribes that all marketing must comply with good marketing practices. In short, this means that all marketing shall be fair and not misleading, and there are, naturally, a number of specific principles that govern the various situations that companies face. The Act is based on an EU directive, but, in contrast to that directive, is applicable in respect of both business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing activities.