The laws for the protection of intellectual property are contained in the Intellectual Property Code which came into force in 1992. The fundamental laws it entails are:
- the law of March 11, 1957 and law of July 3, 1985 for copyright protection (Droits d’auteuret Droits voisins);
- the law of January 2, 1968 amended for patents;
- the law of January 4, 1991 for trademarks.
Know-how is also protected under French law.
Over the years, the IP code has been amended numerous times in order to reflect changes in this field. In 2004, certain modifications were brought to the French IP Code on issues such as the
protection of biotechnological inventions and bioethics. Moreover, all European Union legislation with respect to intellectual and industrial property are fully applicable in France. France is also a party to a number of international treaties including the following:
- the Bern Convention of September 9, 1886
- the Geneva Convention of September 6, 1952
- the Washington Treaty of June 19, 1970
- the Strasbourg Arrangement of March 27, 1971
- the Munich Convention of October 5, 1973
- the Budapest Traty of April 28, 1977
- the Madrid Arrangement of April 14, 1891
- the Nice Arrangement of June 15, 1957
Any right under intellectual and industrial property must be filed with the French industrial property office (INPI). This office handles any agreements on industrial rights and know-how, as well as the corresponding royalties, which have been consented by a person or a corporation domiciled in France for the benefit of foreign corporations or persons.
Notarization is not required with respect to industrial/intellectual property, except in real estate matters. Nevertheless, Patent, trademark and design licenses, as well as assignments, must be filed with the INPI in order to be valid. However, Decree n°2004-199 has clarified and simplified filing procedures with the INPI.
In France, there are regulatory guidelines for licenses. There is much more freedom for parties who wish to draft industrial property license agreements (trademarks, patents and/or know-how).
However, any license agreement for a patent which has not been put into writing will be deemed void.
As far as copyright is concerned, there are many stringent legal requirements with respect to the licensing of rights to third parties, in order to protect the artist or author (e.g. obligation of a written agreement which specifies the exact scope of the rights transferred).
Local anti-trust and competition laws do apply to licenses.
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