Switzerland

As IP awareness among the Swiss business community increases, so does the desire and need to seek out appropriate protections. Of late, geographical indication, denominations of origin and ‘Swissness’ legislation have been buzzwords on the legal market; consequently, the country’s lawyers have seen an influx of work in that regard pour into their offices. Although the concept of ‘Swissness’ was introduced in 2017, much remains to be done to establish precedent and the topic is subject to constant debate as lawyers eagerly await case law to clarify its nuances. As a result, the Swiss Institute of Intellectual Property is exercising caution when it comes to examination proceedings and marks containing any indication of a country or physical location may be dismissed. This restrictive approach has sparked frustration among international corporations; however, trademark practitioners are busy looking for alternatives to ensure that client needs are met. There is also an uptick in non-conventional trademark applications, especially as most EU member states have implemented the new EU Trademark Directive (2015/2436) into their national laws, which opens new avenues for innovative brand protection. On the enforcement side, things are running smoothly and Switzerland remains a more-than-favourable jurisdiction for rights holders seeking to protect their most valued assets.

Firms: enforcement and litigation

Firms: prosecution and strategy

Baker McKenzie 

Global IP titan Baker McKenzie maintains a surefooted presence on the Swiss legal landscape and enjoys its position as the only international firm in the WTR 1000 rankings. It puts ironclad protection schemes in place and watches over portfolios with a vigilant eye. Captain of the Zurich crew Eva-Maria Strobel “combines excellent in-depth legal and industry knowledge with a pragmatic approach. She is sensitive to her clients’ needs and is always quick to respond.” Cross-border enforcement is Strobel’s forte, but recently she assisted Swarovski with its 3D mark registrations. Her colleague Michael Treis “does a fantastic job. He weighs up the pros and cons of each matter before finding a solution that benefits both parties.” The all-rounder manages the marks of Abbott Established Pharmaceuticals.

BianchiSchwald LLC

The much-lauded full-service firm BianchiSchwald operates a cracking IP practice with an “organised and proactive team who are careful around costs. It is the perfect choice for challenging trademark instructions” – the filings are immaculate and the lawyers run circles around opposing counsel in disputes. “A tough adversary in the courtroom,” Christoph Gasser receives effusive praise from all corners of the world. “He is one of the best lawyers we have ever worked with”, enthuses one patron. “He knows our concerns inside out and is incredibly responsive at virtually every time of the day.” The work produced by the division spearhead is “dynamic, systematic and to the point. He combines a pragmatic approach with strategic foresight and legal precision, which only creates the best solutions to any problem. Excellent results are guaranteed when he is in charge.” The US Postal Service and Porsche rely on him for their prosecution work, too.

E Blum & Co AG

The 1878-established E Blum & Co upholds its status as “the best prosecution firm in Switzerland”, courtesy of its transparent and individually tailored counsel. Marks are filed with alacrity here; however, the set also has the wherewithal to nip infringements in the bud. Mathias Meyer, Brendan Bolli and Sven Capol make up the pillars of the practice. “Super bright and full of sound judgement,” Meyer capitalises on his knowledge of competition law to serve up classy and comprehensive advice. Bolli is fully committed to defending the interests of his clients, whether it is through nullity or opposition proceedings or by resolving domain name conflicts. Commercialising assets is second nature to Capol, who ensures businesses get maximum return on their investments.

FMP Fuhrer Marbach & Partners

FMP Fuhrer Marbach & Partners is a force to be reckoned with and sees matters through from ideation to completion. There is no portfolio this seasoned crew cannot oversee nor a cross-border dispute it cannot quash. “Super lawyer Eugen Marbach is a leading light on the Swiss market.” A trusted ally of several marquee brands and part-time professor at the University of Bern, Marbach sits at the heart of the discussion of the future of trademark law and practice. Showcasing exceptional adroitness across the contentious/non-contentious divide, Bernard Volken “handles more dossiers than any other practitioner. Fun to work with, he finds solutions quickly and really gets into the nitty gritty of the issues at hand.” “Top-notch litigator” Peter Widmer never puts a foot wrong when representing multinational entities. He has spent the past 30 years making a name for himself in judicial circles by performing at the highest level.

Homburger AG

Homburger emphasises effective communication and never loses sight of wider business realities, resulting in “an absolutely brilliant IP department”. Some of the most cutting-edge mandates come through its doors and cross-border litigation and parallel import proceedings are a known speciality. Volkswagen has the ear of “highly skilled and intelligent Gregor Bühler, who takes a pragmatic approach to his work and delivers precise and timely results”. Bühler was recently appointed co-chair of the Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Committee of the International Bar Association. Making this a strong one-two punch duo is Georg Rauber, the IP & IT group leader who excels in technology-related disputes and asset transfers.

HOUSE Attorneys

“Responsiveness and business-savvy advice” are hallmarks of Geneva-based boutique firm HOUSE Attorneys. It opts for an entrepreneurial approach and is laser focused on three disciplines – intellectual property, tax and litigation – to provide holistic brand protection that meets the needs of its cosmopolitan clientele. The set takes its cue from the charming Frédéric Serra, whose “knowledge, expertise and professionalism are exceptional. He responds to enquiries quickly and effectively, providing rational and commercially viable solutions. He only ever recommends actions that have an astonishing success rate and remain cost appropriate.” Serra recently assisted Bentley Motors in a dispute that went to the Swiss Supreme Court, ensuring that it could enter into the luxury goods market as a result.

Isler & Pedrazzini AG

The “well-established” Isler & Pedrazzini collaborates closely with its patrons – from clearance checks to brand management. It values the individuality of the companies it assists and consistently builds on its infrastructure to ensure the service it provides is as unique as its clientele. Michael Degkwitz sits at the helm of the department. He has the technical knowledge and strategic nous to get even the most complex of marks registered with minimum fuss. Degkwitz is also admitted to the German bar – a boon to those with cross-border interests.

Junod, Muhlstein, Lévy & Puder

“A go-to firm in the French region,” Junod, Muhlstein, Lévy & Puder hits its stride representing multinational luxury goods and watch companies across the spectrum of branding services. The outfit is not just a cost-effective option, but a top-quality one too, which is why it attracts the likes of Louis Vuitton Malletier. Managing their prosecution work is the “brilliant and dynamic” Laurent Muhlstein; fluent in French, English, German, Italian and Spanish, international work is a walk in the park for him. Another prominent name in the JMLP pack is Michel Muhlstein, who has over five decades of experience under his belt and cannot be stumped by any enforcement conundrum.

Kasser Schlosser avocats

Kasser Schlosser avocats makes the WTR 1000 rankings for the first time and does so with style thanks to the enthusiastic accolades garnered by head of the trademark practice Ralph Schlosser. “From legal opinions to negotiations as well as complex and unpredictable litigation proceedings, Ralph always secures stellar results. The depth of his expertise, knowledge of Swiss legislation and case law allows him to tailor enforcement strategies based on the specifics of each mandate. Ralph’s confidence and strong business-oriented mindset prove extremely useful when it comes to converting intricate legal matters into digestible content that can easily be shared with a company’s C-suite. Ralph never fails to impress; he is sharp, open-minded and a delight to work with.”

Lenz & Staehelin

Lenz & Staehelin “displays all the characteristics of a successful firm: it has a top-quality team that brings a consistent level of personal attention and deep knowledge base to the table. They communicate with a sense of urgency and deliver timely, cost effective and commercially sensitive solutions. The set makes you feel confident in your IP pursuits and is a tremendous asset to have on your side.” The outfit’s remarkable successes in tricky prosecution work and hard-hitting litigation have put them on the map. Exemplifying this is Jürg Simon’s work on behalf of the Federal Office for Defence Procurement Armasuisse, whereby the Swiss Federal Administrative Court upheld the Swiss Confederation’s SWISS MILITARY trademark. “Simon is an outstanding counsel – smart, thoughtful and strategic. He is the first choice for complex work, whether contentious or not.” Making this a triumvirate of stars are Thierry Calame and Lara Dorigo. Licensing wizard Calame “is easily one of the top advisers in Switzerland. His judgement is superb; he also has a knack for assessing the chances of victory at various instances in courts around the country.” “Dorigo is a genuine expert in her field and proactive in identifying potential legal threats that lie around the corner. She is always interested to hear her clients’ views and business developments in order to provide added value to her advice. Her friendly manner and can-do attitude make her a pleasure to work with – any company is safe in her hands.”

Meisser & Partners AG

Compact IP boutique Meisser & Partners is regularly among the top 10 national filers and punches well above its weight in disputes. It also emerges victorious in its fight against fakes, while ‘Swissness’ oppositions are a forte. “Lawyers there are resolutely focused on giving actionable, creative and thorough advice that achieves optimum results without incurring excessive legal fees. They also demonstrate a unique level of cross-cultural legal expertise, which makes working with them even better.” Benedikt Schmidt and Marco Bundi cannot be recommended highly enough. “Skilled and sophisticated, the pair are unfailingly brilliant and a premier choice for any trademark instruction. It is a treat to know such interesting, smart people who are also excellent practitioners.”

Meyerlustenberger Lachenal Ltd 

Meyerlustenberger Lachenal are on speed dial for stock-listed corporations in need of holistic brand protection. “You can only rave about the firm,” enthuses one peer. “It is fantastic and the people in it are even better. They are always there when you need them with their value-added service and fresh attitude.” Experts on geographical indications and getting 3D marks on the register; the group also knocks it out of the park in litigation across international terrains. Leading the department with verve is “gold-standard lawyer Michael Ritscher – one of the most respected experts in the country. Armed with a wealth of experience and global connections, he thinks about cases deeply and is an excellent strategist”. Peter Schramm and “outstanding litigator” Guillaume Fournier straddle the contentious/non-contentious divide. They recently represented eos before the Swiss Administrative Court in relation to its 3D mark registration. “You can place a lot of trust in Schramm. He knows the issues a business faces and provides sophisticated and bespoke advice to suit.” Rounding off the team is the “sharp-minded and meticulous Simon Holzer, who never beats around the bush and is sensitive to commercial realities”. He is a leading light on all things Swiss and advises the country’s Institute of Intellectual Property on its ‘Swissness’ legislation.

Pestalozzi Attorneys at Law Ltd

Local entrepreneurs and international corporations alike love to have Pestalozzi as the guardian of their most important brands, courtesy of its unwavering commitment to quality and comprehensive suite of branding services. Working side by side with its colleagues across several departments, the set supplies high-calibre counsel out of Zurich and Geneva. Tip of the spear Lorenza Ferrari Hofer qualified as a lawyer in both Switzerland and England and Wales. She is comfortable in international settings and her “thorough approach and personable manner” ensure she locks in the most lucrative licensing deals. “A brilliant courtroom performer, Michèle Burnier always brings high energy and the wisdom of a seasoned practitioner to the table.” The unit has a dispute resolution aficionado in Thomas Legler, who keeps a cool head in fiery clashes. He also serves as an arbitrator for WIPO, including domain name disputes.

Rentsch Partner Ltd

“Rentsch Partner” is the first port of call for any and all trademark briefs.” Its 25-strong bench of IP veterans “consult outstandingly on matters with international ramifications and offer an excellent wallet-friendly service which always represents clients’ best interests”. A master at balancing legal and commercial risk, Gregor Wild really stands out. “Not only is he highly skilled in cross-border disputes, there is no one else on the market that knows as much about prosecution as he does. Gregor is the brilliant combination of a lawyer and an academic – he dives into the depths of each case and applies the right tactics to reap maximum reward.” His colleague Matthias Städeli offers complete brand protection and “impresses with his tremendous know-how. He takes the time to fully appreciate the products and business structure of his patrons.” Enforcement guru Christian Hilti is an avid problem solver who strikes fear into the heart of any infringer. “One of the most brilliant and remarkably bright litigators,” Demian Stauber is the resident technology whizz. He lectures on internet law at the University of Zurich and is perfectly placed to answer influential questions. Convoluted branding conundrums are Magda Streuli-Youssef’s forte. “Her experience is second to none. You can tell from the start that she is a fabulous attorney who is deeply passionate about her work.”

Schellenberg Wittmer

Schellenberg Wittmer “has a classy and practical style that keeps you coming back for more”. The commercial law outfit packs a punch in enforcement proceedings and confects licensing agreements with precision and finesse. The addition of a Singapore desk puts it in a favourable position when negotiating across international waters. Philip Morris International, Samsung and Santhera Pharmaceuticals all have the ear of Philipp Groz, who drafted a global purchase agreement on behalf of the latter. “A flexible and thoughtful person as well as a strategic, skilful and hands-on lawyer. Philipp’s advice is business minded, accurate and clear. He adapts to his clients’ needs and will always go the distance to achieve the best outcome possible.”

sigma legal

sigma legal may be the new kid on the block in Switzerland, but the Geneva-based ensemble is already making waves on the legal landscape and secures a place in this year’s WTR 1000 as a result. It offers the full scope of branding services and is already a favourite among top-dollar clients in the biotechnology space. The outfit also has a flexible and personable approach that hits home among the start-up and NGO community. Its IP department co-leads Stéphanie Chuffart-Finsterwald and Alain Alberini deftly navigate each stage of a trademark’s lifecycle and highly sought after for their services. “Chuffart-Finsterwald’s strategies are perfect every time. She is always on top of matters and gets to grips with the issues quickly, giving prompt, accurate and clear guidance.” “Alberini is exceptionally talented in the digital sphere and his approach is especially appreciated by those in the technology sector. He can answer any question relating to the online world, from data protection to domain names.”

TIMES Attorneys

Intellectual property is a central plank of the practice at TIMES Attorneys. At home in the technology sector, the IP team hits the nail on the head whether devising protection strategies or enforcing marks. Regardless of the task, the steadfast commitment to maximising value for its clients is self-evident. Firm founder Michael Noth “is super trustworthy and reliable; you can count on him to find a solution. Although he is a tough adversary in court, he is always open to negotiate to find a win-win option for both parties.” Recently representing Google in opposition proceedings and Giorgio Armani before the Commercial Court of Berne, Andrea Mondini “comes highly recommended to anyone who needs to resolve a trademark or unfair competition conflict in Switzerland. It is always a pleasure to work with him and his results are perfect. Andrea works in a clever and precise manner and gets down to the root of the problem with minimum fuss.” The “extremely specialised Markus Kaiser excels in enforcement and technology transfer briefs. His attention to detail is spot on and his customer-service spectacular. He is also a great choice for prosecution instructions.” Leading the charge from Lausanne, Philippe Gilliéron “provides comprehensive advice that contains answers to potential concerns in ancillary disciplines. He can manoeuvre through tricky situations with ease and looks for solutions that fits the needs of every business in a pragmatic, creative and cost-efficient manner. He will, without hesitation, dig into jurisprudence, doctrine and if push comes to shove, even use his international network to get to the bottom of an issue.”

Troller Hitz Troller

“A group of highly qualified legal experts with a deep well of legal expertise and knowledge” reside at Troller Hitz Troller. Although it runs the gamut of brand protection services – and has done so since 1941 – the firm has carved out a niche in the luxury goods and food and beverage industries. Having built the storied unit from the ground up, Patrick Troller has earned more than the respect of his peers. “A star in the sky, he is an exceptional litigator. His analysis is thorough and you know you’re up for a fight when he is on the other side.” A driving force of the practice and “brilliant strategic thinker”, Gallus Joller is another dyed-in-the-wool enforcement specialist with a penchant for protecting non-traditional marks. He is also a first-class choice for global portfolio management.

Walder Wyss Ltd 

Walder Wyss has one of the strongest IP practices in the country, but is not resting on its laurels. Its six outposts are constantly discovering new ways to innovate and improve their streamlined 360-degree service. Personable practice group leader Markus Frick “is undoubtedly one of the best trademark lawyers in Switzerland. The superb all-rounder has a keen ability to strategise in complex litigation proceedings and can navigate any prosecution pitfalls. He is a take-charge, no-nonsense, uber-practical lawyer who can attain the goals of his clients in the most cost-efficient way.” Another versatile and “knowledgeable attorney, Roger Staub has gigantic repertoire of trademark knowledge. He often comes up with new ideas and possibilities for solving a potential problem and replies within hours. Simply, it is great to work with him.” Completing the partner trio is Michael Isler, who channels his in-house expertise at a global telecoms infrastructure and service provider into clean-cut holistic counsel.

WEINMANN ZIMMERLI 

Serving up a cradle-to-grave trademark service, WEINMANN ZIMMERLI “has a first-rate team that consistently performs at a high level”.  The side has been building its practice and has obtained stellar results on behalf of internationally renowned brands. “Dynamic professional Madeleine Schim van der Loeff has a zeal for her work. Her energy, enthusiasm and die-hard attitude make her a winner in any book. She is always on the ball and having her on the other side of a negotiating table is a pleasure. Madeleine’s customer-facing skills are outstanding, along with her ability to generate solutions and manage expectations throughout.” Joining her on the non-contentious front is Stefan Keehnen, “whose eye for detail makes him an exceptional attorney. Stefan works seamlessly across varied portfolios and he is a pro at strategic planning and execution. His well of knowledge, particularly in oppositions, is invaluable to any corporation.” Taking charge of all things contentious is Conrad Weinmann. His 20-plus years of litigation experience stand him in good stead when tackling cross-border enforcement briefs. “Bright and commercially inclined, Alban Shabani is a top choice for disputes. Pragmatic and speedy, he knows case details off the top of his head and never loses sight of the big picture.” WTR 1000 newcomer Marco Handle “uses his charm, technical competence and unbelievable intellect to take the lead on negotiations with diligence. He navigates clients through tricky disputes with precision and loyalty until the best possible outcome has been achieved. In any scenario, Marco shows sensitivity and rigour; he is uncompromising in his argumentation, which never fails to impress.”

Wild Schnyder AG

Operating out of Zurich, Wild Schnyder provides bean-to-cup support but shines brightest when managing a multitude of marks and getting almost unobtainable rights on the register. A master in that regard is Donald Schnyder, a tactically astute IP protector and enforcer whose 20 years of wisdom is readily apparent. “Intelligent and responsive” Gabriela Taugwalder and the “pleasant and perspicacious strategist” Barbara Müller navigate the contentious/non-contentious divide. They also get the best deals when commercialising assets.

Other recommended experts

FRORIEP’s managing partner and technology ace Nicola Benz makes light work of major licensing and assignment projects. Over at Niederer Kraft Frey, Nicolas Birkhäuser fuses his knowledge of trademark and competition law to whip up holistic advice and actionable branding strategies for the likes of Procter & Gamble and Healey Sports Cars. Lorenz Ehrler is a compelling choice for all things cyberspace. The crack litigator – who has now moved his trade from Bugnion Ballansat Ehrler to VISCHER – also has a fine domain name arbitration practice. The “renowned” Robert Flury solves problems dextrously and efficiently for top brands; this internationally minded practitioner can be found at Zulauf Partners. Niederer Kraft Frey’s Clara-Ann Gordon brings a refined knowledge of IP and IT law to the table. She advised Pandora on the roll-out of its Swiss online shop and has a flair for sewing up IP-rich deals. “Superb and meticulous attorney” Anne-Virginie La Spada at BMG Avocats is an expert on internet-related matters. Fleet of foot in courtrooms, the smooth talker also gets signatures on the bottom line of valuable deals. Felix Locher is an IP-focused contract negotiator and litigator – he is a key contact at PYTHON. Operating out of TRADAMARCA, Jérôme Pernet is a favourite among big names in the sports and entertainment sectors; he keeps a vigilant eye on global portfolios. “Really intelligent and proactive”, Christian Rohner doles out “concise advice across the spectrum of branding issues” out of Swissberg. Eric Rojas of TRADAMARCA counsels clients in French, German, English and Spanish; his unique insight from the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property is skilfully applied to get tricky marks granted. “Distinguished transactions specialist Markus Wang is a pleasure to work with.” His to-the-point guidance can be found at Bär & Karrer. “An expert in all aspects of the trademark practice, Michael Widmer handles matters effectively, efficiently and economically. He is practical in his approach and always proposes creative solutions that maximises value for the client.” He flies the flag for Probst Partner.

Individuals: enforcement and litigation

Individuals: French region

  • Alain Alberini - sigma legal
  • Michèle Burnier - Pestalozzi Attorneys at Law Ltd
  • Stéphanie Chuffart-Finsterwald - sigma legal
  • Lorenz Ehrler - VISCHER
  • Philippe Gilliéron - TIMES Attorneys
  • Anne-Virginie La Spada - BMG Avocats
  • Laurent Muhlstein - Junod, Muhlstein, Lévy & Puder
  • Jérôme Pernet - TRADAMARCA, Humphrey & Co 
  • Eric Rojas - TRADAMARCA, Humphrey & Co
  • Ralph Schlosser - Kasser Schlosser avocats
  • Frédéric Serra - HOUSE attorneys 

Individuals: prosecution and strategy

  • Gallus Joller - Troller Hitz Troller 
  • Mathias Meyer - E Blum & Co AG
  • Patrick Troller - Troller Hitz Troller
  • Bernard Volken - FMP Fuhrer Marbach & Partners 
  • Peter Widmer - FMP Fuhrer Marbach & Partners 
  • Michèle Burnier - Pestalozzi Attorneys at Law Ltd
  • Markus Frick - Walder Wyss Ltd 
  • Christoph Gasser - BianchiSchwald LLC 
  • Philippe Gilliéron - TIMES Attorneys
  • Eugen Marbach - FMP Fuhrer Marbach & Partners
  • Barbara K Müller - Wild Schnyder AG
  • Michael Noth - TIMES Attorneys
  • Madeleine Schim van der Loeff - WEINMANN ZIMMERLI
  • Donald N Schnyder - Wild Schnyder AG
  • Jürg Simon - Lenz & Staehelin
  • Roger Staub - Walder Wyss Ltd 
  • Gabriela Taugwalder - Wild Schnyder AG
  • Michael Treis - Baker McKenzie
  • Gregor Wild - Rentsch Partner Ltd
  • Alain Alberini - sigma legal
  • Nicola Benz - FRORIEP
  • Brendan B Bolli - E Blum & Co AG
  • Gregor Bühler - Homburger AG
  • Marco Bundi - Meisser & Partners AG
  • Sven Capol - E Blum & Co AG
  • Stéphanie Chuffart-Finsterwald - sigma legal
  • Michael Degkwitz - Isler & Pedrazzini AG
  • Lara Dorigo - Lenz & Staehelin
  • Lorenz Ehrler - VISCHER
  • Lorenza Ferrari Hofer - Pestalozzi Attorneys at Law Ltd
  • Robert Flury - Zulauf Partners
  • Clara-Ann Gordon - Niederer Kraft Frey
  • Stefan Keehnen - WEINMANN ZIMMERLI
  • Anne-Virginie La Spada - BMG Avocats
  • Felix Locher - PYTHON
  • Jérôme Pernet - TRADAMARCA, Humphrey & Co 
  • Georg Rauber - Homburger AG
  • Eric Rojas - TRADAMARCA, Humphrey & Co
  • Benedikt Schmidt - Meisser & Partners AG
  • Eva-Maria Strobel - Baker McKenzie
  • Markus Wang - Bär & Karrer
  • Michael Widmer - Probst Partner AG

Individuals: transactions

  • Nicola Benz - FRORIEP
  • Nicolas Birkhäuser - Niederer Kraft Frey
  • Gregor Bühler - Homburger AG
  • Lara Dorigo - Lenz & Staehelin
  • Lorenza Ferrari Hofer - Pestalozzi Attorneys at Law Ltd
  • Philipp Groz - Schellenberg Wittmer
  • Michael Isler - Walder Wyss Ltd 
  • Eva-Maria Strobel - Baker McKenzie
  • Michael Treis - Baker McKenzie
  • Markus Wang - Bär & Karrer
  • Gregor Wild - Rentsch Partner Ltd