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Switzerland; Taiwan: Against ISO over Request for Country Name Change Declined

(Sept. 13, 2010) The Swiss Federal Tribunal (Switzerland's Supreme Court), in Lausanne, issued a ruling on September 9, 2010, declining to handle on appeal a civil suit lodged by Taiwan against the Geneva-based International Standards Organization (ISO). The Tribunal, affirming a lower court decision, deemed the case to be outside the scope of its jurisdiction because it was politically motivated and therefore inadmissible. More specifically, the Court noted that Taiwan's legal action was a matter of “battling politically for its existence as an independent democratic state to be recognized internationally” and not a civil matter for the purview of the civil courts. (Taiwan Loses ISO Name Battle in Swiss Courts, GENEVALUNCH (Sept. 10, 2010),
; Press Release, Swiss Federal Court, Arrêt du 9 septembre 2010 (5A_329/2009) (Sept. 9, 2010),

The lawsuit was originally filed with a Geneva court in July 2007, in the name of the Government of the Republic of China (on Taiwan), after the ISO ignored that Government's repeated requests to change Taiwan's ISO 3166 country name from “Taiwan, Province of China” to “Republic of China (Taiwan).” The suit was based on articles 28 and 29 of the Swiss Civil Code, on protection of name and of personality. It reportedly “marked the first time that Taiwan took legal action against a major international organization over the name issue.” (Steve Bercic, Swiss Court Backs Taiwan's ISO Stance, TAIWAN TODAY (Sept. 10, 2010),

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) pointed out, nevertheless, that the Tribunal reaffirmed in its decision “that Taiwan has all the elements of statehood and is legally eligible to file a lawsuit against the ISO over an incorrect reference to Taiwan in the ISO country code list.” The MOFA emphasized that the case was a civil suit and was not “politically motivated.” It further stated that despite the Swiss Federal Tribunal's rejection of the case, it would continue to defend Taiwan's legal rights. (Bercic, supra; Hseih [sic] Chia-chen & Y.L. Kao,Swiss Court Declines to Hear Taiwan Lawsuit Against ISO, FOCUS TAIWAN (Sept. 10, 2010),
; Press Release, MOFA, On the Decision of the Swiss Federal Tribunal in Adjudicating Our ISO Lawsuit [in Chinese] (Sept. 9, 2010),