Effective May 31, 2022, Germany has terminated the “Agreement between Switzerland and Germany Concerning the Reciprocal Protection of Patents, Designs and Trademarks” of 1892. For more than 100 years, this bilateral Agreement had provided for facilitations for owners of industrial property rights in the territory of the respective other contracting party. The exact reasons for the termination are not known, but the Agreement had already been criticized for some time as being outdated.
Termination of the Agreement particularly significant for trademark owners
The most important practical relevance of the German-Swiss Agreement was in the field of trademark law and here in considerable simplifications in the proof of genuine use of trademarks in revocation proceedings. Under both German and Swiss trademark law, the requirement of proof of genuine use of a trademark for the registered goods and services aplies five years after registration or after expiration of the opposition period. As a matter of principle, only those acts of use are considered to be relevant which took place in the respective territory – i.e. in Germany in the case of German trademarks and in Switzerland in the case of Swiss trademarks. This principle was modified by the German-Swiss Agreement to the extent that acts of use in the territory of the respective other party were also recognized as a suitable basis for genuine use. Thus, a Swiss trademark could be successfully defended against an application for revocation although it had not been used in Switzerland at all, but only had been used in Germany for the relevant goods and services, and vice versa. This modification of the principle of territoriality ceases to apply with the termination of the German-Swiss Agreement.
Relevance in terms of timing
The termination of the German-Swiss Agreement takes place ex-nunc, i.e. there is no retroactive effect of termination of the Agreement. Although much is still unclear in detail, there are indications that it will still be possible to rely on acts of use in the territory of the other party during the relevant period of the past five years, but only with regard to such acts of use until May 31, 2022. The full relevance of the termination of the Agreement will therefore only unfold after May 31, 2027, when all acts of use in the territory of the other party are outside the five-year period.
Considerations for the trademark strategy
Owners of German or Swiss trademarks who can only show use in the respective other part must prepare themselves for a deterioration of the use situation. It is particularly advisable to check the trademark portfolio for possible new applications for the respective trademarks (as far as permissible from the point of view of repeat applications) in order to maintain trademark protection.