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Switzerland

At the end of 1999, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court had to decide whether parallel imports were legal under the Swiss Patent Act. Kodak SA, a Swiss company, is the exclusive distributor for Kodak products in Switzerland. It fought parallel imports of certain Kodak products arguing that these products where protected by patents. The Commercial Court of Zurich rejected Kodak SA's claim (see our report in IFLR, August 1999). But the Federal Supreme Court held that since the Swiss Patent Act did not expressly allow parallel imports the exclusive rights of patent owners had to be favoured over free trade. This decision received wide press coverage and was much criticised. It is interpreted as protecting the interests of the Swiss pharmaceutical industry which has managed - due to its patents - to maintain a price level for their products in Switzerland higher than in most countries of the EU. In the meantime, members of Swiss Parliament have announced that they will push for an amendment to the Swiss Patent Act allowing for parallel imports of patented goods.

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