Friday, November 10, 2017

Switzerland and its Patent Irony

by Steve Reiss (

File:Flag of Switzerland (Pantone).svg
Swiss Flag
Interestingly, during the anti-patent speeches that were common to Europe in the mid 1860s and later, see e.g., Abolition of Patents: Recent Discussions in the United Kingdom and on the Continent (1869), Switzerland was often put up on a proud shelf for its lack of patent system:
the fact in Switzerland, where the absence of patents has not at all been found prejudicial to the public at large. The records of the latter country may dispel all apprehension lest the abolition of Patents should place national industry on an unequal and disadvantageous footing with foreign. 
Abolition of Patents, at 191.

With such strong public feeling against patent protection it is no wonder that it took Switzerland...almost half a century to enact its first national patent law in 1888.The law was so limited in scope, however, that its usefulness for patent protection was at best dubious. Indeed, successful lobbying by the Swiss chemical industry resulted in the 1888 national patent law protecting only inventions that could be represented by mechanical models.
This is where the irony begins:

  • Switzerland would play such an important role in drafting the text of the Paris Convention, Berne was chosen as the headquarters for the Central Bureau of the Union, which was in charge of the administration and supervision of the convention.
  • WIPO ("World Internation Property Organization") would be headquartered in Berne.
Strangely, today, Switzerland, and its 8,000,000 people ranks eighth in the world in patents.

On a per-capita basis, Switzerland is number one (source: WIPO)

A sample of a Swiss patent ("Brevet", in French), by my favorite Swiss company:



What happened to Rolex during 2003-2009? (data from PatentCloud.Com)

1 comment:

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