–Dan Kelly, Attorney

= or ?

In March, I commented on the possibility that Victorinox and Wenger, long-time makers of Swiss Army knives, were stretching the Swiss Army brand too far, to the detriment of the overall quality of the goods and the goodwill in the Swiss Army trademarks.  A recent development seems to support my hypothesis.

Victorinox, which owns Wenger, recently celebrated its 125th anniversary.  While this is a respectable accomplishment for any business, one of the press reports included the following:

In 2005 Victorinox took over its last Swiss rival, Wenger, which was sliding into financial trouble. The brands still trade independently.

“We felt it was important because we wanted to prevent a foreign company taking over Wenger and producing the Swiss Army knife in the Far East or produce other products that could hurt our brand image,” explained [Carl] Elsener[, Victorinox president].

Well, it appears that Mr. Elsener’s fears may be coming true.  On August 3, Swiss customs officials seized 116 boxes of Victorinox goods (none of them knives) made in China and Taiwan for violating Swiss law governing trademarks and emblems.  (Story here.)  Specifically, the individual who filed a complaint that led to the seizure has argued that Victorinox benefits from using a trademark (see the shield design above) that closely resembles the Swiss flag (above), when the goods are not, in fact, made in Switzerland.

While Victorinox and its seized goods may yet be vindicated under Swiss law, this is a good “designation of origin” compliance reminder, regardless of where your company is located.