Some basic notions must first be laid down in order to understand the full implications of counterfeiting.
- Intellectual property is the State-recognised right of an individual over a word, sentence, text, model procedure or any other creation of the mind such as a musical composition, painting, sculpture or book.Unlike rights pertaining to a tangible asset such as real estate, an intellectual property right concerns an intangible asset such as a trademark, design, patent or work of creation. It gives the holder or the author certain entitlements, such as the exclusive right to exploit the asset, to benefit from its value and to derive profit from it.
- A trademark is a distinctive sign which distinguishes the products or services of a company from those of other companies. It can be a combination of letters and/or numbers, a logo, a three-dimensional shape, a sound or a colour. A trademark informs consumers about the product's origin, image or quality, and is a means of obtaining customer loyalty.
- A design is a product or part of a product that can be distinguished by its lines, contours, colours, texture or by the materials used, and which is used to industrially manufacture an object.
- A patent protects an original invention that can be made or used in industry, for example a clasp for a strap or a winding system for a mechanical movement.
- A work is a literary or artistic creation of the mind which has individual character, regardless of its value or purpose. The author of a work can give form to his or her ideas through music, literature, painting, sculpture, applied arts, software or photography. The aesthetics of a work have no bearing on its protection. A person who has given form to a creation is recognised as the author of that work and holds the right to it.
- Origin indicates a direct or indirect reference to the geographic origin of a product or service. It includes reference to characteristics or a standard of quality that are associated with that place of origin. For the “Swiss Made” indication to appear on the outside of a watch, that watch must have a Swiss movement, the movement must have been cased in Switzerland, and the final inspection must have been carried out in Switzerland.
When a third party takes a tangible asset without the prior consent of its owner, we call this theft. In intellectual property law, we refer to counterfeiting or piracy.