In contrast to material assets, intellectual property is not always easy to define, because this comprises inventions, patents, ideas, trademarks, designs or works that are known as intellectual property.
Intellectual property law governs first and foremost topics such as the registration of trademarks and designs as well as the exercise of copyright and the associated proprietary rights.
A trademark is a symbol that identifies the goods or services of a company and distinguishes these from others. This symbol may consist of words, letters, numerals or images as well as a combination of these elements. It may be depicted two dimensionally or three dimensionally, or may even be acoustic. For a trademark to be registered, it may not already be in the public domain, nor may it be deceptive or breach public order, good morals or applicable law.
Applications to register a trademark or to amend existing trademarks must be submitted to the Office of Economic Affairs. The necessary forms (German only) are available from the Office of Economic Affairs. A trademark is considered to have been deposited from the date on which all statutory preconditions (Art. 29 Para. 2 MSchG) have been fulfilled. The following information is required:
If no grounds for exclusion (German only) exist, the trademark shall be recorded in the Liechtenstein trademark register. The fees (German only) for the deposition of a trademark amount e.g. to CHF 400.00 for three classes of goods and services, for each further class CHF 50.00. The protection period for a trademark is 10 years. The extension of a Liechtenstein trademark registration (Verlängerung einer liechtensteinischen Markeneintragung) can be extended for a further ten years an unlimited number of times. The extension fee for up to three classes is CHF 400.00 and for each further class CHF 50.00.
For the regional registration of a trademark with protection in all member states of the EU (Union Trademark), this form must be used to submit the trademark to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).
To register an international trademark, an international deposition request must be submitted to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The forms as well as information about the costs and further information is available from the website of the Office of Economic Affairs (German only) or directly from WIPO. It is important to note, in this conjunction, that an international registration that provides protection for Liechtenstein has the same effect as national deposition and registration in the Liechtenstein Trademark Register.
Patents are so-called protective rights for inventions issued by the competent public authority. Patented inventions may be exploited within a defined territory for a period of up to twenty years exclusively with the approval of the patent holder, meaning specifically the manufacture, utilisation and sale of a product. Inventions can only be patented if they are new and not obvious and are capable of being commercially exploited. A patent protection treaty exists between Liechtenstein and Switzerland, meaning that a patent always applies to the entire protective territory of both countries. The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IGE) in Berne handles all associated administrative matters and issues information about questions relating to patent law, such as e.g. whether the desired protection is even covered by this patent protection.
The term design is defined as the appearance of an entire product or of one of) its parts. This means the shape, lines, contours and colours as well as the surface structure or materials of the product, or its decoration, such as for example fabric pattern. A product is any industrial or artisan manufactured item, including individual components that are combined to form a complex product, or packaging, logos, decorations, graphic symbols or typographical logos.
The design of a product can be protected by causing this to be registered. The protection preconditions for the design protection of a product are: It must be new and unique, and may not be unlawful or offensive. The protective period of a design amounts to 25 years, divided into 5 protective periods of 5 years each. Application forms for registering a Liechtenstein design (German only) must be submitted to the Office of Economic Affairs. The fees (German only) for a registration amount to approximately CHF 200.00 - 350.00. Information about Europe-wide or international registration (German only) to protect a design is available from the website of the Office of Economic Affairs.
The rights of authors and their works in the fields of literature, painting, music etc. are known as copyrights. This protection also encompasses computer programs. Copyrights, however – in contrast to trademarks or designs – are not recorded in a register. A work is protected by copyright from the moment of its creation, and does not have to be recorded on a medium. The protection expires 70 years after the death of the originator.
Collecting societies exercise the copyrights for a group of originators. The Office of Economic Affairs oversees the management of the four collecting societies that are licensed in Liechtenstein, checks their annual reports and approves the submitted tariffs. These include, for example, the reproduction of published works that are protected by copyright, the use of music, the performance of music for dance and entertainment purposes, the public presentation of video clips, ticketed presentations of audio-visual recordings, so-called telekiosk, cinemas as well as services such as audio text and video text. Details of the respective tariffs are set out on the homepages of the individual collecting societies.
SUISA, Swiss Cooperative Society for Composers, Lyricists and Music Publishers (Schweizerische Gesellschaft für die Rechte der Urheber musikalischer Werke)
SIUSSIMAGE, Swiss Authors' Rights Cooperative for Audiovisual Works (Schweizerische Gesellschaft für die Urheberrechte an audiovisuellen Werken)
SWISSPERFORM, Collecting Society for Neighbouring Rights (Gesellschaft für Leistungsschutzrechte)