The so called "Intellectual property” concerns all the IP rights and related strategies applied: not only filings for establishing rights, but also value enhancement, exploitation, defence for example in the case of infringement, and also availability searches, legal consultations, drafting of private agreements, training and financial evaluation.

In France, IP is a growing discipline, because of its strategic vocation in the competitiveness of companies and research centres. However, it is confronted with a strong growth in intellectual property rights filed abroad.

Foreign companies, in particular American, use a massive patent filing strategy, sometimes termed the “patent jungle”. Though the dynamics in France are more favourable to the filing of trade marks, it still remains very insufficient compared with international practice, just as with regard to designs and models.

The CNCPI recommends companies and research centres to connect and combine the various protection systems available to them (patents, trade marks, designs and models, domain names, etc.) in order to take advantage of complementarities in these systems, and to create true synergies.

The CNCPI has proposed to the public authorities an action for developing IP culture in France, along six lines: understanding, training, promoting, encouraging, giving confidence, communicating.

Key figures

Changes in national patent filings (source EPO)

1978, before the European patent application

  • France: 11,400
  • Germany: 26,000
  • EU: 62,000
  • Japan: 165,000

1988, after 10 years of European patent

  • France: 12,400
  • Germany: 28,600
  • EU: 65,700
  • Japan: 240,000

2001, after 23 years of European patent

  • France: 13,500
  • United Kingdom: 52,650
  • EU: 177,500
  • Japan: 386,000

Filing of trade marks by national route in 2004 (source OHIM)

  • France: 66,979
  • Germany: 26,938
  • EU: 123,451
  • Japan: 120,388

Questions and answers

Why do French companies file rather few patents, in comparison with countries such as the United States or Japan?
The relative low number of patent filings by French companies results from several causes: French culture is less turned towards law and especially patent law than British and American culture: certain mistrust by companies is also obvious with regard to the French legal system with regard to patents, judged to be too slow, with insufficient sanctions, etc. For example, the comparative patent indicators (statistical and trend-setting one) are against France: amongst the ten leading PCT applicants, there are no French, while there are Germans, two Americans and two Japanese.

Why do certain companies, in particular in the USA, practice “massive patent filing” strategies?
The companies practising this strategy think that they will hold all the trumps cards because, in the USA for example, challenging a patent is expensive. On the contrary, companies facing these “patent jungles” find themselves in a constraining and often expensive defensive situation.

What is the place of France with regard to filings of trade marks compared with international practices?
The dynamics in France is more favourable to the filing of trade marks, but still remains insufficient compared with international practices. France is one of the most dynamic countries in Europe, but however remains placed behind Japan and the United States.

What is the situation in France with regard to filings of designs and models?
The European Union in 2003 created the community design and model, a unitary title having effect over the territory of the 27 members of the European Union, at a very modest cost (approximately €1000 for the filing and publication of a community model). French companies at the present time file only 7% of community designs and models, behind Germany, Italy, the USA and the UK. The result is that French companies have fallen behind on this terrain, leaving foreign companies to monopolise protection in the design field.

Why do French companies file few designs and models?
French companies keep believing that French copyright, certainly extremely protective, is able to protect them in all circumstances. This belief proves however to be wrong: if copyright is effectively able of protecting efficiently in France (subject however to having established evidence of the date of creation), it is different in many other countries. The best way of obtaining a private monopoly on an aesthetic creation remains the filing of a drawing or model, a valuable industrial property title.

What does the CNCPI recommend for French companies to take best advantage of their IP rights?
The CNCPI recommends companies to connect and combine the various protection systems available to them (patents, marks, designs and models, domain names etc.) in order to take advantage of the complementarities of these systems, and create true synergies.

What about the IP strategy for SMEs?
French SMEs are relatively more active than it appears but their IP practice could be more developed and offensive so that IP is truly at the heart of their competitive strategy.