Intellectual Property system in France:


You will find in this article a summary of the Intellectual Property system in France, who can register, where, when and what can be registered.


Who can register right for Intellectual Property? :

A patent can be registered by both physical and legal person. The applicant can go through a warrant to do the application, in France, this person can be:


  • A lawyer or a person who has the patent mention.
  • A person recognized by INPI, they are registered on a special list.
  • A person in European Union who is empowered to act before IP office
  • A company who has a contractual relation with the company asking for the protection.

The warrant has to be designated by the applicant, and has to provide a power of attorney.

Using a power of attorney is compulsory when the patent is registered in the name of several people, or when the person who wants to have the protection is not established in European Union.


Caution: If the person is not established in France, or in country that is not member of WTO, he has to prove that his country recognizes French patent protection.


Where IP has to be registered?

The application for protection has to be done before INPI ( Institut National de la Propriete Intellectuelle). The application can be done, directly at INPI's headquarter, by mail or electronically.


When the IP right has to be registered?

The IP rights that want to be protected has to be secret until the application, for example, if someone has a new invention and publish it, by himself, in a article on newspaper, this invention will not be subject to protection anymore.


What can be registered for Intellectual Property :


  1. Patent:


A Patent protects a technical invention, which means a technical solution for a technical problem. For being considered as a technical it has to answer to four cumulative criteria:


  • Does the solution answer to a technical problem?
  • Is it likely applicable to industrial domain?
  • Is it new?
  • Is there a technology inventive step?


Example: pencil eraser:

  • Does the solution answer to a technical problem? yes
  • Is it likely applicable to industrial domain? yes
  • Is it new? yes
  • Is there a technology inventive step? No, since pencil and eraser separately already existed before.

Thus protection for pencil eraser will not be granted.


There are two exceptions for patent concerning pharmaceutical product and software:

  • Pharmaceutical product will be granted a 20 years protection like other patent but also need a marketing authorization. This authorization can take several years to be granted, so a complementary certificate of protection will be granted to extend the protection for this period.
  • Software cannot be protected by patent but by copyright, you can have a patent for software if it is part of your invention, but not for the software only. For software copyright, algorithms and functionality of software cannot be protected by copyright.

Thus, four things will be allowed to be protected by copyright for software:


  • Program: source code and object code
  • Conception works, that are made in order to create a software
  • Utilization documentation
  • Screen page which consist in the graphical aspect of the software.


  1. Design and models:


The designs and models have to be new, and not giving a feeling of “déjà-vu”, there is no limitation of time for anteriority, it means that if your design is similar to a design from sixteen century, it will not be protected, as for the patent, the research of anteriority is not compulsory but strongly recommended, you can do it, by yourself, through INPI (you will have to pay additional fee for this service), or with a IP specialist.



  1. Trademark:


Registrable as a trademark are all distinctive and graphically representable signs, such as words, names, acronyms, letters, numbers, devices, emblems, geographical names, holograms, colours, colour combinations, dispositions of colours, the three-dimensional form of a good or its packaging and any combination of the mentioned signs. Sound marks and olfactory marks can be registered, but must be suitably described and graphically represented to be approved by the National Institute of Industrial Property (I.N.P.I).

The following trademark types are registrable: trade marks, service marks, collective marks, certification marks and titles of establishment.


The applicant that wants to register for those three kinds will have to submit three different applications.



Duration of protection:


  • For design and models, the minimal protection is for 5 years, but this protection can be extended 5 times each time for 5 years, thus your design and models can be protected for a maximum of 25 years.


  • For trademark the protection is granted for 10 years, renewable each time for 10 years.


  • For patent, there two kind of protection, the normal one grant the protection for 20 years by paying fees every year, but there is also the utility certificate that, like the normal one, grants exclusivity of right to use the patent but for 6 years, which is suitable for short term invention. It is important to notice that a patent demand can be transformed in a utility certificate demand, but the contrary is not possible. Unlike the application for patent, no research of anteriority will be done for utility certificate.


Which language can be use for the application?  

The application can be done in a foreign language; in that case, after receiving application, INPI will ask to provide a translation in French within two months after the notification.



Vincent Lagier


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