Intellectual Property Law in France

French to English Patent Translation Services

We’ve blogged about the need for professional legal translation services in the context of Intellectual Property Law in Italy, Intellectual property rights in South Korea, In Japan, in India, in Sweden, and about contract enforcement in China.  Professional English to French translation services and French to English translations play an important role in the enforcement of intellectual property rights in France. Such enforcement is governed by Law 2007-1544, in conjunction with the EU’s Fight Against Infringement (Directive 2004/48EC).

The law specifically addresses ‘the measures, procedures and remedies to ensure the enforcement of intellectual property rights, including industrial property rights, community designs, patents, semi-conductors, plant breeder rights, trademarks, geographical indications, and copyright’.

The directive lays out an accelerated and simplified procedure to both prevent and stop infringement, along with stating how damages should be assessed. The law states that the competent court must take into consideration ‘the negative economic consequences, including lost profits that the injured party suffered, the profits realized by the infringer and the mental distress caused to the right holder by the infringer’. The law also makes available an ‘award of a lump sum which cannot be lower than the amount of royalties or fee due if the infringer had requested the authorization to use the intellectual right in question’.

In addition to the civil penalties, the directive also outlines criminal penalties. Accordingly, infringement is punishable by a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and EUR 300,000.00 fine. When the offense is committed by an organized gang or when the products involved in the infringement are dangerous to the health and security of society then the penalty will be increased to five years imprisonment and EUR 500,000.00 fine.

The directive further extends the jurisdiction of the courts, granting the courts of general competence jurisdiction to hear cases on the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Translation of French Copyrights

The common law equivalent of a copyright in France is the droits d’auteur. However, it is important to understand that while these terms are similar, there are important differences. For example, according to French law, a copyright grants protection to any product of the intellect, provided that it is original. A work will be considered original when it ‘bears the stamp of its author’s personality’.

That being said, ideas are not automatically protected under French copyright law unless they include some form of ‘creative effort’. Thus, under French copyright law, protection will generally be provided to literary works, journalistic or scientific articles, brochures and titles; conferences, court submissions, and sermons; dramatic works; musical works; software.

Translation of French Patents

Interestingly, French law does not define the type of inventions that can receive patent protection, although it does outline the characteristics of such inventions. Accordingly, the invention must be ‘novel’ and not comprised in the current state of the art which is defined as ‘publicly available information’ prior to the date of the patent application’s filing. The invention must also ‘have an inventive characteristic’. This has been interpreted as meaning that the invention must not be considered an ‘ordinary skill’ within that given sector. Furthermore, the invention must ‘be capable of being applied to an industrial use, including agriculture but excluding surgical procedures’. Thus, the following will typically be excluded from patent protection: scientific and mathematical discoveries, aesthetic creations, computer games and programs, and inventions deemed immoral.

Translation of Trademarks

French law specifically grants protection to distinctive marks and names ‘within the field of industry and commerce’ and, in some cases, the service sector. In addition, it also protects trade names that refer to ‘the geographical or other origin of a product or service’ (i.e., champagne).

To qualify for trademark protection, the trade mark or name should not be illicit, it should be distinctive and, finally, it must be available.

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