Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most and why?
It fills me with joy and satisfaction when I can help clients solve their problems as efficiently as possible. This does not have to be a positive verdict. Most issues can be solved beforehand in the proceedings or, ideally, in such a way that a legal dispute is not even necessary. In doing so, I am aided by the experience and knowledge of the different cultures that I have encountered and IP law instruments that I have acquired after almost 30 years as a litigator, consultant, arbitrator, part-time commercial judge and part-time scientist.
What steps should trademark industry leaders take to hire and retain the best talent?
In my experience, the best talents are not primarily financially motivated but want to be challenged and promoted both professionally and personally. Challenging mandates, a high level of personal responsibility, an intensive exchange in a well-functioning team, quick feedback from the boss and a human environment in which working is a pleasure are crucial. The infrastructure and, in particular, the relief provided by legal technology are becoming increasingly important.
What are the top three skills for a world-class IP litigator to hone?
First, curiosity and perseverance are important – not only to understand the client’s expectations and the problem at hand as well as possible, but also to refuse to settle for the obvious and instead go that often-cited extra mile.
Second, logical thinking and excellent linguistic skills are required not only to understand the coherence of the legal system, but also to apply it in such a way that one can convince third parties of one’s thoughts.
Finally, energy and a sense of humour are vital to ensure that one does not become jaded or take oneself too seriously, but remains enthusiastic about the client’s problems while keeping the big picture in mind.
What are the biggest challenges currently facing brand owners looking to protect their design rights?
The understanding of trademark rights as ‘eternal monopolies’ – unfortunately found in many IP offices and courts – and the corresponding fears, as well as the increasing separation between trademark law and trademark reality, often fail to do justice to the innovations and investments of trademark owners. Another major practical challenge is the enforcement of trademark rights in the global environment and an essentially virtual market dominated by fewer and fewer players.
Which recent EU decisions do you expect to have the biggest long-term impact on clients’ IP litigation strategies?
In trademark law, the most lasting impact will be the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) insight that trademarks not only have an origin function, but also an advertising and a guarantee function, and the resulting understanding of trademark rights as property, which will hopefully increase. Another major influence will be recent ECJ case law on copyright protection of utility models, which redefines the relationship between registered and unregistered IP rights and the protection of technical aspects outside patent law.
Head of Intellectual Property
Head of intellectual property Michael Ritscher is recognised as one of the most experienced and esteemed IP litigators and arbitrators in Switzerland and beyond. He is often at the forefront of precedent-setting cases and has an extensive practice, notably in the fields of life sciences, luxury goods and retail. He is a reference for companies seeking his support on cross-border contentious affairs involving Swiss, EU and international law. Mr Ritscher is an opinion leader and an internationally top-ranked lawyer in his field.