On June 26, 2015, the Apple Watch has been made available in seven new markets including, you guessed it, watchmaking country, Switzerland. It is fresh news, but it also gives us a chance to discuss the interesting Swiss trademark issue that potentially related to the introduction of the Apple Watch in Switzerland. There are conflicting reports about the precise nature of the issue but if some news reports were true then Apple has to deal with a potentially conflicting and per-existing “Apple Watch” trademark in Switzerland. Some guessed that this was expected to be a considerable obstacle for Apple to overcome before a possible launch of the Watch in the country. We also take a quick look at how the Apple Watch was received in the home of horology, and the impact it has already had on it.
The Apple Watch was first made available as much as two months ago, on April 24th – but, ironically, Switzerland was not among the nine countries that were given access to the first shipments. While that indeed sounds quite ironical, there are a number of good reasons why things happened this way. First, the demand for the Apple Watch at the time of its release in mid-April was so strong – selling out in the first 60 minutes after online pre-ordering had begun – that basically only those who placed a pre-order online could get their watches on launch day, with delivery times for “normal” online orders on some models being pushed back by up to 3-4 weeks. Stocks in most all Apple Stores were extremely limited as well for the first several weeks. In other words, supply was often insufficient to meet the demand of the markets first opened – and certainly not strong enough to help make the product available in other regions. Thus, one reason that the Apple Watch was not available in Switzerland at launch was due to a potential supply shortage. Though given the impact the traditional watch industry had on the Apple Watch one might have assumed it would be a priority for Apple to make the watch available in that market.
Second, Switzerland is hardly ever among the first markets to receive the latest Apple products – the newest iPhones and iPads usually make it there in the second wave, and the situation is no different this time around either; although the delay between the market openings is almost always much shorter than the two month period that we are seeing here.
More interestingly, as first revealed by Swiss business magazine Bilan and as AppleInsider reported, a Swiss trademark pending since 1985 — which contains an image of an apple, with the word “apple” in the middle — specifically registered to cover watches was noted to possibly prevent Apple from launching its own Watch until the trademark’s expiration in late 2015. Although the Apple watch does not say “Apple” anywhere on its exterior, it does bear the Apple logo on the case back – and that goes against the filed trademark.
Now, while that original 1985 trademark could be extended indefinitely, Apple could challenge it on the grounds that the mark has never been used in trade, as no Swiss watchmaker is known to have sold an “apple watch” since the trademark was granted. Furthermore, we have no knowledge of any legal action that has been reported since Apple began proceedings to protect its own trademarks in Switzerland last year.
Last but not least, over recent years, Apple had to be involved in a number of crucially important, international lawsuits where it tried to enforce the legal protection of its trademark designs – and also where it was challenged by other major companies such as Samsung on grounds of trademark violation. With that in mind, a 1985 trademark registration, whose content was never put to use, was expected to ultimately not prove to be much of an obstacle for Apple – especially so, given the company’s vast financial and legal resources.
Now, in late June, the time has come for the Apple Watch to make its official debut in Switzerland; in fact, before the actual expiry of the “Apple Watch” trademark. Amid these news, Bloomberg reported that the Swiss Watch industry in May has had its biggest monthly drop in exports in more than five years, as the strong franc and the introduction of the Apple Watch weighed on deliveries. Funnily enough, the Swiss Watch Industry report first mentions the negative effects of the lack of two working days in May 2015 over May 2014 as the cause for the massive decline.
Shipments slid 8.9 percent to 1.71 billion francs ($1.9 billion) in May, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said on its website Thursday. That’s the steepest percentage decline since November 2009.
— Thomie.ch (@Thomie_ch) June 26, 2015
On the other hand, the popularity of the Apple Watch release in Switzerland was reported to be in line with what was seen in other markets: there were rather short queues waiting through the night and in the morning prior to the day when the Watch was made available and we will see a bit later on how online sales in Switzerland work out for the Apple Watch.
All in all, this weekend is notable because it marks not just the Apple Watch itself, but also, to a great extent, smartwatches at large entering watchmaking country, Switzerland. We need not tell you that this merely is the beginning and the rest is still very much to come – as we shall in the coming months and years witness how the smart wearable device rises (or fades out), and how it will impact the Swiss watch industry. apple.com