Nothing screams Swissness more than a Swiss watch, a Swiss Army knife, Swiss chocolate, or Swiss cheese. They are all stereotypes of course, but they are Swiss and Swiss Made sells. With Switzerland being in top 3 strongest nation brands in the world, products Made in Switzerland have become the epitome of upper quality, tradition, exclusivity, luxury and reliability. To protect and promote the Swiss label, the Swiss have taken very seriously the indication of source, as it is a reference to the geographical origin of the products reflecting the characteristics and/or quality of the given products through the association with the origin.
To ensure the strengthening of the Swiss Made designation and the Swiss stamp of quality, the new Swissness trademark legislative update was approved by the Federal Council in September 2015, revising and amending the Federal Act on the Protection of Trade Marks and Indications of Source (TmPA) and the Federal Act on the Protection of the Swiss Coats of Arms and other Public Signs, coming into force on 1 January 2017.
The term Swissness refers to the designation “Swiss” as an indication of source regardless of whether it is used on its own or together with other terms, be it Made in Switzerland, Swiss Made, Swiss Quality or Swiss recipe, or alongside figurative marks such as the Swiss cross, the Matterhorn, Helvetia or Wilhelm Tell.
The “Swissness” of products or services is part of the nation branding and is directly connected to the reputation of the country. The concept of country of origin has had a strong impact on consumer attitudes and behaviors towards certain products, as it gives indications of source, assuring that the product originates in the specific geographical area. This adds value to the Swiss brands, and it translates into consumer confidence in the products, a higher buying power and a higher asking price of up to 50% as compared to similar items of other origin.
To rightfully sell items benefiting from the Swiss Made endorsement or using as part of advertising the Swiss cross and elements mentioned above, the TmPA divides goods into three categories: natural products, foodstuffs and industrial products, setting out clear rules and criteria according to which the Swiss geographical indication could be used correctly, without misleading customers.
The statutory provisions determine the origin of natural products, depending on their type. Note that for milk and derived products, the Parliament introduced a regulation stipulating that the milk needs to be 100% local to use the Swiss label.
For foodstuffs, considering that they are processed natural products there are also some conditions to be met. Thus, at least 80% of the weight of the raw materials must originate from Switzerland, the calculation being based on the recipe and not on the composition and the activity that provides for the main characteristics of the products, which must take place in Switzerland. The law provides for few exceptions regarding the 80% criteria, referring to raw materials that are not sufficiently available or do not exist in Switzerland (such as cacao) and that are determined by their self-supply rate in the region.
In the case of industrial products, at least 60% of the manufacturing costs – covering the costs for raw materials, accessory parts, semi-finished products etc. – including research and development, quality assurance and certification, must be generated in Switzerland, in addition to at least one essential manufacturing step that should take place in Switzerland. Exception makes natural products that are not to be found in Switzerland and materials not sufficiently available in Switzerland that are only taken into consideration as a percentage.
Additionally, for services to be considered Swiss, the company`s registered office and the administrative centre must be in Switzerland.
There are yet some chances for companies that do not fulfil the abovementioned criteria, for promoting specific activities by having a specific step/activity entirely performed in Switzerland, such as furniture or garments “Designed in Switzerland”, or meat products “Smoked in Switzerland”. However, in these instances, the Swiss cross cannot be used as it might mislead consumers into believing that it refers to an indication of origin rather than a mere indication of an individual production step.