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French Intellectual Property Law - a brief overview

In common with all developed societies, France has a distinctive system of protection of intellectual and industrial property rights, applicable not only to artistic or creative rights approximately equivalent to copyright, but also to designs, drawings, patents and trade marks.

A non-exhaustive list of certain points of French Law, which may be of particular comparative interest to common lawyers, is set out below. However, the said points may never be considered in isolation and should not be relied upon without first consulting a fully trained and qualified French attorney specialising in the specific field of intellectual property.

There is a centralised authority for registering industrial property rights - the INPI (Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle).

Within France and internationally, rights are protected according to the date of registration.

The protection afforded to intellectual property rights is generally presented in the following three categories.

recognition of intellectual property rights outside of France

recognition within the European Union by European Patents

recognition and protection under French Law.

The French Courts are frequently called upon to decide claims entered by holders of intellectual property rights, sometimes from unexpected sources, and often hand down extremely constraining decisions from time to time accompanied by substantial damages.

In regard to French patents per se, actions are generally brought before the Tribunal de Grande Instance, however questions of jurisdiction may arise concerning foreign patents.

Should know-how or a new technological idea be protected, protection and registration may require the holder thereof to reveal the contents to third parties.

Under both French and EC legislation, the French Customs authorities may seize goods which appear to be in breach of intellectual property rights, and goods, which are not licensed for a particular territory, may currently be held to be counterfeit in spite of being manufactured by the holder of the intellectual property rights in question.



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