Economic intelligence and intellectual property both involve reflection beyond the present time of the company. They are a strategic investment, structuring and essential for the company.

Any economic player must today understand and anticipate changes affecting a world market driven by exacerbated competition. Economic intelligence (EI), defined as “mastery and protection of strategic information pertinent for any economic player”, is above all an analysis grid essential to reading new challenges. Its purpose is the competitiveness of economy and the security of the State and companies.

As is also the case with intellectual property, one of the dimensions of EI is to protect the assets of the company. However, these assets are, at the present time, manifold and very diversified to the point that it becomes very difficult to ensure complete coverage of them. From theft of sensitive data contained on computer media, through depreciation of the company reputation or image, or terrorist acts against production buildings, the company is spending more and more money on them.


The birth of economic intelligence
The Japanese, in the 1950s, developed an economic intelligence system relying on the MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) and JETRO (Japan External Trade Organisation) for relaunching their economy.

The Americans discovered economic intelligence towards the middle of the 1980s, thanks to Michael Porter. This professor at Harvard, an expert in business strategy, was the first to formulate the concept, based on two findings:
• given that the market is no longer national but rather global, it is necessary to integrate this dimension in the company strategy;
• mastery of all the information required involves the use of high-performance technical collection and analysis facilities.

The establishment of economic intelligence in France
The movement came from decision makers, often isolated managers, anxious citizens and a few authors, who understood that knowledge-based economy is replacing traditional economics. For a long time, the term has been poorly understood and carries a few fantasies relating to inaccurate English translations. France is behind its competitors.
The first finding of the Martre report in 1994 is clear: a policy is needed in a country where the State fulfils an ever criticised but always sought-after driving role.
The first attempt at a public economic intelligence policy in France goes back to 1995, when the prime minister Edouard Balladur created the “Committee for Competitiveness and Economic Security”.
In 2003, the French government, on the basis of the proposals of the report from the Member of Parliament Bernard Carayon, engaged a real public policy with regard to economic intelligence, developed from the 38 proposals of this report.
Alain Juillet was appointed on 31 December 2003 by decree of the President of the Republic, the person in charge of economic intelligence for the Secretary General for National Defence.

Questions and answers

What are the major functions of economic intelligence ?
Three major functions characterise EI: control of scientific and technical assets, the detection of threats and opportunities and the development of influence strategies in the service of the national interest and/or for business.
EI is a separate tool, for continuously interpreting the reality of markets, technologies and the methods of thinking of competitors and partners, their culture, their intentions and their capacity to implement them.

What may be the risks relating to industrial property and EI ?
An “attack” by means of IP rights can be used to destabilise a competitor.
This is possible in the case of an infringement action. An action may be taken in order to interfere with the development of a competitor or one of its products (action for infringement, applications for prohibition of continuation of exploitation, etc.) or for obtaining information (production capacities, procurement, margins, etc.).
A risk may also arise in the field of marks, in the case of an “information” action: a third party seeks to attack the brand image of a competitor: the mark of the latter is attacked by an “information” or “disinformation” campaign.

How can patent monitoring be used ?
It can be used to anticipate or evaluate infringement risk, but also for identifying players or competencies in a given market, for identifying the Research & Development strategies of competitors, locating where researchers are situated, or detecting technological rupture phases.

What are the legal constraints on EI in France ?
The law on computing and liberty guarantees a certain protection in the face of EI strategies. The penal code also invokes sanctions, as does the European Court of Human Rights. Certain aspects of “fundamental freedoms”, such as freedom of expression, may also be challenges in the face of economic “intrusions”. Any EI and/or IP strategy must therefore be validated by a consultant (patent agent, legal expert, lawyer, EI specialist, etc.).