WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW / IP PECULIARITIES

A.  PATENTS of Invention
Liechtenstein does neither have an own patent law nor a patent office. Instead, the patents of invention are being governed by the Swiss patent law and are administered by the Swiss Institute of Intellectual Property (IGE) in Berne, Switzerland, due to a bilateral patent protection act of 1978. Granted Swiss patents cover the territories of both Switzerland and Liechtenstein, irrespective of the route of patent filing and prosecution, i.e. whether via a Swiss national, a European regional or a PCT international filing.

IMPORTANT:   Swiss/Liechtenstein patent applications are not being examined on the merits for novelty and inventive step but only on formal issues. It is therefore up to the Applicant to file enforceable claims that patentably distinguish the claimed invention from the prior art. Accelerated formal examination is possible upon request and payment of an acceleration fee.

Given that Swiss patents of invention share various characteristics with utility patents and petty patents (except for the 20 years patent term) the Swiss patent law as currently applicable does not provide for the possibility of obtaining utility patents.

Supplementary Protection Certificates
Supplementary Protection Certificates for drugs that are subject to market authorization procedures are available. It shall be noted in this context that it is not possible to extend the term of SPC-protected drug sales from the European Union into Switzerland/Liechtenstein beyond the term granted in the European Union (in case of an earlier market authorization in the EU), and vice versa, it is not possible to extend the term of SPC-protected drug sales from Switzerland into the European Union beyond the term granted in Switzerland/Liechtenstein (in case of an earlier market authorization in Switzerland), on the basis that Liechtenstein is a member state of the European Economic Area (EEA) while Switzerland is not.

B.  TRADEMARKS
The Liechtenstein trademark law and practice is closely linked to the Swiss trademark law and practice. For that reason objections raised by the Swiss IPO against a new trademark application on absolute grounds of refusal will likewise be raised by the Liechtenstein IPO for the very same reasons. Luckily, the remedies for overcoming such objections are usually identical as well.

Geographical indications
This is particularly true for the overly strict position of the Swiss IPO relating to geographical indications of any kind. Currently, almost any geographical hint in a newly filed trademark application will result in an objection on the grounds that the public will be confused or misled by the geographical indication if the goods or services were not to originate from that town, or region or country. Such a geographical hint can be, for example, a graphical element like the famous Swiss Matterhorn mountain, even if only stylized, or the name of a town or a region or a country anywhere in the world. In order to overcome this strict examination practice the Applicant has hardly any choice but to limit the list of goods and services to goods and/or services originating from that country or region or town as requested by the Swiss or Liechtenstein IPOs in their provisional refusal actions. Only in rare cases will the Swiss and the Liechtenstein IPOs register trademark applications containing a geographical indication without requesting a limitation of the list of goods and services, namely in cases where the Applicant is able to prove that the geographical indication will not be understood by the consumers as an indication of the place where the goods are being manufactured or the services delivered.

Opposition
As another local IP peculiarity, it shall be noted that unlike in Switzerland the Liechtenstein trademark law does not provide for an opposition procedure, due to the tiny size of the country and the forseeable low number of potential opposition cases. Accordingly, any enforcement of trademark rights can be accomplished solely by bringing action to the competent Liechtenstein courts.

Use of the trademark
Use of a Liechtenstein trademark shall commence within 5 years from filing and shall not be interrrupted for more than 5 consecutive years in order to prevent the trademark from becoming vulnerable to cancellation. Yet, hardly ever will a Liechtenstein trademark be canceled or invalidated on the sole ground of a lack of use, simply because the proper use of the mark within any of the territories of Liechtenstein, Switzerland and the European Union will we regarded as a proper use of the mark in Liechtenstein.

For more information on any of these topics please contact us by email or give us a phone call. It will be our pleasure to answer your specific questions.