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Private sector joins government to protect ‘Swissness’ abroad

Last year a government report indicated that the law on Swissness contributes more than CHF1.4 billion ($1.48 billion) a year to the Swiss economy. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Major industry associations have joined forces with public agencies to combat free-riders who abuse the “Swiss brand” abroad.

The association for Swissness enforcement is intended to foster coordinated action against the wrongful use abroad of Swiss indications of source. It comprises 13 members, including industry associations for the chocolate, watch, cheese and textile industries as well as Swiss pharma company Hoffman-La Roche and the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property.

Whether it is a Swiss cross on a watch dial or the word Swiss in a company name, in the eyes of consumers “Switzerland has an outstanding reputation with regard to quality and safety”, the association said in a press releaseExternal link on Thursday. Consumers are prepared to pay a premium for something of Swiss origin, it added.

This also leads to abuse by free-riders who “play the ‘Swissness’ card without adhering to the corresponding criteria”. There are products that are “Swiss” on the outside but have nothing “Swiss” on the inside, the association said.

In 2017 the law on “Swiss Made” came into force, which spelled out the conditions under which businesses can claim their products as being Swiss made. This allowed the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) to intervene and demand that goods be destroyed that don’t meet the criteria. In 2020 IPI intervened in a record 280 cases.

Know-how and tools

Last year a government report indicated that the law on Swissness contributes more than CHF1.4 billionExternal link ($1.48 billion) a year to the Swiss economy. According to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released earlier this week, counterfeit “Made in Switzerland” goods cheated the Swiss economy out of 10,000 jobs and CHF4.5 billion ($4.9 billion) last year.

The new association is intended to help fill a gap in the current law and the enforcement of Swiss law as it pertains to Swiss products abroad. Swiss laws only apply on national territory, which means that exporters of products and services can’t benefit from the “added value provided by the Swiss source if it is also used by unauthorised entities” the association said.

Up to now, industry groups like Chocosuisse and the Swiss Watch Industry Federation had to fight against misuse of the Swiss brand on their own. The new association is intended to coordinate the actions of the key players in the defence of the “Swiss made” label by monitoring markets at a global level and jointly developing know-how and tools to identify misuse in specific countries.

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