On 2 September 2015 the Swiss Federal Council passed a new Swissness-legislation to preserve the value of Switzerland as reference to the geographical origin of goods or services.
To that end various regulations have been revised or newly created to clarify in particular the criteria for the designation of goods and services as Swiss. The Swissness-legislation will enter into force on 1 January 2017. Goods which have been produced prior to this date in compliance with the current Swissness-legislation may, however, still be distributed until end of 2018. The use of the Swiss cross, the Swiss flag, the term “Swiss” or other reference to Switzerland as origin of the goods or services will remain optional and do not require any permit.
Currently, the Swiss cross/Swiss flag may only be used in connection with (Swiss) services but must not be applied on goods or packaging for commercial purposes. The new legislation provides for some liberalisation in the sense that it allows – provided the respective Swissness criteria are fulfilled – goods to be also designated with the Swiss cross/Swiss flag. However, the use of the national emblem, represented by a Swiss cross in a triangular shield, remains reserved to the Swiss authorities.
The designation with “Swiss” or another reference to Switzerland is an indication to the Swiss origin of the goods and services distributed under such designation. The application of incorrect declarations of origin is illegal (article 47 of the Swiss Trademark Act, TMA). According to the current article 48 TMA the origin of goods is determined by the place of production or the origin of the basic materials or the components used in their production. Under the new law, however, the are very specific requirements to be fulfilled for a product or service to be considered Swiss:
As far as natural products (e.g. plants, mineral water or meat) are concerned their Swiss origin is determined by their connection to Swiss soil, such as the place of extraction for mineral products or the place of harvest for crops. If the natural product undergoes essential processing, however, it is considered to be foodstuff or an industrial product (for instance wooden furniture vs. piece of wood).
For foodstuff two cumulative conditions must be fulfilled in order to be considered Swiss: At least 80% of the raw material weight or the ingredients it is composed of must derive from Switzerland and the processing that gives the product its essential characteristics must have taken place in Switzerland. For milk and milk products the Swiss requirement is increased to 100% of the weight of the milk of which it is composed. However, natural products and raw materials which do not exist or are not available in Switzerland in sufficient quantity may be excluded – at least in part – from the calculation. Hence, coffee or dark chocolate, which consist solely of imported natural products that are not available in Switzerland, may still be designated as “Swiss” provided they are completely processed or manufactured in Switzerland.
With regard to Industrial products the Swissness criteria require that at least 60% of the respective production costs, including costs associated with research and development, must have been generated in Switzerland. In addition, the activity that gives a product its essential characteristics must have taken place in Switzerland. In any case at least one essential production step must actually have been carried out in Switzerland. However, the new law provides again for various exceptions and simplifications, in particular with regard to raw materials and semi-finished products which are not available in Switzerland. Furthermore, if a product does not fulfil the requirements of Swiss origin as a whole, there is the option – subject to further conditions – to only refer to certain specific Swiss features of that product (e.g. "Designed in Switzerland" or "Swiss Research").
Services are considered as being Swiss if the provider’s headquarters are situated in Switzerland and the company is actually administered from Switzerland.
Finally, the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property may introduce a national registry of geographical indications for goods which are not of agricultural nature, as e.g. watches or mineral water. Furthermore, the new law provides for the possibility to register all designations of origin and geographical indications which are recorded in a register as well as all designations of wine or geographical indications protected according to cantonal law as so called geographical trademarks.