Protection of Country Names: National and International Perspectives

Prof. Dr. Felix Addor

Country names represent a particular category of geographical names. On the one hand, they can be considered as an element of a country's sovereignty. On the other hand, they are often associated with a particular reputation and certain qualities, either in general or in relation to a specific product category; Swiss watches, Italian fashion or Jamaican coffee are all well-known examples of this. Some countries, including Switzerland, have adopted legislation that sets the terms of use and protects their country names so that the name can only be used in connection with products or services originating from that country. However, misuse of country names generally takes place beyond the borders of the nation concerned. The challenge is that, according to the principle of territoriality, national rules do not apply abroad. That is why Switzerland, which is very active in protecting the "Swiss made" designation, has developed various tools and mechanisms to defend its country name in third countries. In order to avoid cumbersome procedures and, at the same time, to guarantee an adequate, harmonized and easily enforceable protection throughout the world, a group of delegations has requested WIPO to discuss and adopt proposals which aim to better protect country names and geographical names of national significance at international level.

This presentation explores, based on Switzerland's experience, the opportunities, benefits and challenges of protecting and enforcing country names at both national and international levels.

Felix Addor serves as the Deputy Director General and General Counsel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property. He is responsible for all legal and policy matters regarding all fields of IP at national and international levels. He is also a Professor (‘Titularprofessor’) at the Faculty of Law and a lecturer at the World Trade Institute, University of Bern. He lectures on IP, international negotiations and global governance.

The lecture will be held on Thursday, May 23, 2019, at 6:30 pm at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition (room E10), Marstallplatz 1, 80539 Munich.