#IPLaw #PatLaw – Disadvantages of the new mandatory online filing of patent applications before the French Patent Office (INPI)

Following the filing of the French trademarks and the filing of French designs, the General Director of the French Patent Office issued a decision on last November 8, concerning the filing of French patent applications and other national proceedings to be made exclusively online, with effect from November 19, 2018.

Previously, it was possible to file a patent application by hand, post, fax or filing software (epoline) common with several offices in Europe and with the European Patent Office. Since last November 19, these other means of filing are no longer allowed.

An INPI portal has been in operation for a very long time, and has been updated following objections. Indeed, schematically, the portal system looks for the term “description” in the text of the application to identify the description part, and does the same for the claims, the abstract, and the figures that should normally be integrated in the same file in docx format.

Following this, the system converts the deposited file into an “enrich” docx file with specific tags. The result is a change in the font, margins, character sizes and font, line numbers converted to paragraph numbers, and initial claim numbers (“1.”) are modified to (“[Claim 1] “). The system then generates a downloadable pdf file corresponding to the docx.

Thus, apart from the sequence of letters, the file of the pending application before the INPI no longer has any aspect in common with the file that the applicant has introduced on the system. It becomes difficult to refer to the application as filed, or to a co-pending application that should have been identical. Similarly in the context of a modification of the claims, for the practitioner, only the initial file in docx is available but it does not correspond, in the form, to the pending set of claims.

The removal of the other means of filing and the obbligaion to go through the portal INPI has, from the beginning, raised problems of form / cosmetic text, as well as practical problems from the point of view of the practitioner.

Most pratitians each have their uses in terms of fonts, formatting including paragraphs. The removal of the old filing means forces everyone to have a pending application to the INPI having exactly the same form and a relatively large font size delta between the title and the body.

Beyond the impersonalization of the texts of the French patent applications, come practical disadvantages when the practitioner wants to refer to the application as filed or the pending application, the relevant mentions are no longer in the same place. The same is true when one wishes to make modifications similar to those of a co-pending application, or to modify the claims during the procedure. Indeed, the pending application before the INPI is not available in editable format and the practitioner will use the initial file with the variations of positions.

What about documents filed in foreign languages? For example, can a French application under Chinese priority, for which instructions are given on the last day of the priority period, be recognized by the INPI portal system?

As for references numbers, it would be necessary to systematize the use of paragraph numbers, but it is possible that an empty paragraph could be considered by the portal system as a new paragraph where the practitioner would not have associated any number, which can generate specific shifts.

After objections the portal has been modified. The main novelties that were deemed sufficient to close the debate were the establishment of a fallback procedure and the possibility of paying the fees after the initial filing. Thus, a docx file that the system could not convert can be filed as is in its pdf form in the fallback procedure, the burden is for the applicant or the practitioner to file a compliant file within two months.

These changes are still not fully satisfactory. The impersonalization of the texts remains, as well as the practical disadvantages. Tests show that the filing of a Chinese docx makes it possible to do the fallback procedure. The regularization of the docx and the translation of the Chinese text of the application into French seems to have to be done within the same period of 2 months from the filing.

The main problem that remains to date concerns the case where the practitioner receives instructions of filing a French application under foreign priority with a document in pdf on the last day, without any docx document available for example due to jet lag. Indeed, in this case, the system hangs and does not accept the pdf because it is required to file first a docx could that not be converted, and then a pdf that exactly matches the docx … The risk of loss priority is therefore important with the subsequent consequences in terms of the validity of the patent application.

By way of comparison, online filing at the European Patent Office (EPO), the UK Office (UKIPO) and the German Office (DPMA) do not, to our knowledge, have this type of disadvantages.

The INPI portal therefore needs some additional developments to limit the aesthetic, practical and substantive disadvantages.

SOTERYAH IP

#PatLaw – The employer has disclosed an invention that would have worth millions

One more or less uniform paradigm in various jurisdictions, is that the invention of the employee belongs, because of the employment contract, to the employer. Some specificities may exist in certain jurisdictions but the principle is generally this one.

Under French law, schematically, when the inventor had an inventive mission, the employer must give him an “additional remuneration” which must be proportionate in the light of the commercial success of the invention. When the inventor did not have an inventive mission, but realized the invention in the field of the company, the situation is generally equivalent.

But what happens in a case where the ivention is published without having filed any application?
Indeed, the fruit of an invention is really substantial only in the case of the sale of an industrial property title implying a monopoly.

This is the situation in which Jean-Michel Lerussé, a former employee of the Kéolis group in charge of the subway of Rennes (FR), found himself.

Mr. Lerussé was hired by the Keolis group in 2002, when the first subway line for Rennes was commissioned. He spent long hours cleaning the subways by hand with water jets, a brush, a bucket of water and soap. This represented nearly 1,000 hours of work and 60% of their activity. Washing was used to limit accumulations of graphite that could cause serious short circuits.

Tired of these tedious operations, this former mechanic, after working nights, designed and built a water jet cleaning machine with washing bars and high-pressure nozzles on a maintenance train.

Mr Lerussé consideres today that the Keolis Group has never acknowledged his work and has removed any chance of being protected by making a public disclosure of the invention. As a consequence of this, a filing of a patent application is no longer possible, and Mr. Lerussé can not claim any additional remuneration on this basis.

In this type of situation, it is possible to pursue remedies on the basis of the general law on responsibility. It must be established that there was a fault, a damage and a causal link relating to them.

In the case in point, Mr Lerussé states that:

– in 2002, the agents could clean 3,643 m of lanes in 30 nights and that amounted to € 5.22 per meter;

– in 2016, thanks to his invention, they could clean 46,432 m in 53 nights and it came back to € 0.67 per meter.

This allowed Keolis to save 87% on maintenance.

This saving can be determined in terms of income for the patent holder for example on the basis of royalties from almost all metro maintenance companies in the world.

It is an income from which Mr. Lerussé can no longer benefit what constitutes a damaged, caused by the public disclosure of the Keolis group.

It is surely on the basis of a calculation of this type that Mr. Lerussé and his lawyer came to claim the group Keolis 25 million euros.

The lawsuit between Mr. Lerusé and Keolis takes place today (November 20, 2018), The judgment is eagerly awaited. As far as the French case law is concerned in this matter, it is not necessary that an application for the invention was filed to avail itself of the additional remuneration, yet will it establish with probity that the damage is actually 25 millions of euros …

Stay connected, we will let you know of the update …

SOTERYAH IP

#IPLaw #FRLaw – Advantages and disadvantages of the provisions of the PACTE draft law (FR)

For the record, the French government has made draft law to boost the French economy through business development. This is the PACTE (Action Plan for Growth and Transformation of Enterprises) draft law. The law was adopted at first reading by the National Assembly on October 9, 2018. We will do another a post to inform of the effective entry into force of the law.

Part of the law includes significant changes in French patent law, with a view to promoting its attractiveness.

For this part, the provisions of the draft law have advantages in the sense of attractiveness sought, but also disadvantages that may have a counterproductive effect.

The biggest positive effect would be an announcement effect, namely that companies hearing government’s efforts are more inclined to invest, expand their businesses and expand their portfoliosof IP rights; combined with effective improvement related to the other provisions of the law.

We will review these patent provisions in a synthetic way, with for each one, the current situation, the advantages and disadvantages:

1 °) The provisional patent application

This is the point that is most commented by people not aware of the legal issues of patent law. The relevant provisions have been removed from the draft PACTE Law to be introduced by regulation.

The aim is to bring it closer to the American system where applicants have the opportunity to file an application that does not necessarily fulfill the formal requirements, at reduced cost, without the filing being analyzed by the Patent Office (in our case the INPI). The applicant then has the opportunity to re-file the subject-matter of the provisional application one year later at the most, in due form.

The advantage could be a first quick filing to have an application date at a lower costs.

In the current system, as already discussed in a previous post, it is already possible to file a patent application without paying the official fees, to have a filing date and benefit from the effects of a provisional application.

Unfortunately, substantive issues usually arise. The costs of preparation and filing by an expert are intended to cover several subject-matters functionning in the same way as the preferred embodiment of the applicant, allowing to have a wide scope of protection, more difficult to circumvent.
If an applicant files a provisional (or definitive) patent application without the assistance of an expert, the description will likely be limited in terms of coverage, and it will be difficult or impossible to increase the scope of the patent application, as well as having a first filing date.

Therefore, whether for a provisional definitive or final application, the assistance of an expert is highly recommended for the drafting of the patent application.

A provisional application will therefore set specific rules, but the “provisional” effect can already be used today.

The implementation by regulatory means would be provided in 6 months according to a statement of Mr. Bruno LEMAIRE in September 2018.

2 °) Strengthening the quality of patents (examination of inventive step)

One of the important measures of the draft PACTE law is the possibility for the INPI to reject patent applications for non-invention (in particular for lack of technical effects) or for lack of inventive step (Article 42bis).
In the current situation, the INPI can reject a patent application only for manifest lack of novelty, as regards the conditions of patentability. Inventive step and the non-invention aspect are examined before the courts in case of litigation.

The advantage of this provision would be the issuance of patents that further satisfy the requirements of patentability. It would result mechanically that fewer patents would be issued by the INPI which benefits third parties and not applicants. This measure will probably lead to a decrease in the number of French filings, and deflate patent portfolios.

A common practice of having patents or parts thereof serving for a business purpose will be greatly limited. These patents still make it possible to be viewed by the customers as a company in a constant search for innovation even if there is not a breakthrough innovation every time. This currently benefits all types of applicants (SMEs and large groups).

This provision will result in an increase in INPI’s staff, an increase of analysis time and an increase of the time to issue the French patent. An increase of the INPI official fees is therefore to be expected. Similarly, the experts will have to spend more time on the files taking into account these changes of law, which will result in an increase of the consulting costs (in the current state, the expert checks that certain elements are indeed new and preferably inventive and confirms this to the client, without necessarily having to demonstrate inventiveness in detail to the INPI).

The entry into force is planned within two years after the promulgation of the PACTE law.

3 °) Opposition proceedings before the INPI

The opposition procedure will allow any third party with an interest in acting to question the validity of the patents issued by the INPI. If the mechanism used at the EPO is used, there will be some exchange of written arguments and then some oral proceedings.

In the current state, third parties only have the opportunity to file observations with relevant documents without being party to the proceedings and without any obligation to identify themselves or to prove an interest in acting . The third-party observations are possible 2 months after the publication of the patent application. Beyond that, you have to go to court.

The advantage would therefore be greater legal certainty for third parties, and standardization with other countries (namely the EPO, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway , Finland, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Japan and the United States).

This proposal seems to go in the right direction, but will necessarily, in the same way as above, impose associated procedural and advisory costs.

4 °) The promotion of the utility certificate

The utility certificate is a title similar to a patent but of reduced duration, and issued without examination of the INPI. The law aims at increasing its duration from 6 to 10 years (as in Germany), and to implement the possibility of converting an application for a utility certificate into a patent application.

Only in case of litigation, a search will be required. With the PACTE law, it can be envisaged that research will also be required with the said transformation.

The improved utility certificate will come closer to the current potentially non-inventive patent with a shorter lifetime, and without a search report by the EPO (making it possible to anticipate the outcome of a European filing on the same invention).

The measures are mainly administrative and should not lead to substantial increases in costs.

5 °) A great absentee of the proposals remains the designation FR-PCT

To date, the international applications to be validated in France are necessarily made through the EPO, and the European patent is then validated in France.

It would have been interesting for foreign applicants wishing to be protected only in some European countries to have the possibility of directly designating France. A direct designation is already possible in Germany and the United Kingdom namely, and this would be in preparation in Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands namely.

In conclusion, the government attempts through this means to stimulate the development of companies and the protection of their industrial property to reach the levels of other countries, including Germany. The most important lever would have been to change the minds of entrepreneurs namely by training the companies on the interests of the protection of intellectual property. Indeed, German entrepreneurs have quickly have the reflex to file a patent application while French entrepreneurs are more inclined to test the product on the market which is generally detrimental to the validity of a patent filed thereafter.

SOPERYAH IP

#PatLaw – The non-patentability of subject matters considered contrary to public order or morality.

The question of the non-patentability of inventions said to be contrary to public order or morality, differs according to local legislation and “good” morals.

A decision by the Indian Office rejected a patent application for a vibratory sex stimulator (WE VIBE brand of STANDARD INNOVATION Corp. (CA)). The decision is dated April 17, 2017, and can be reviewed at the link below.
http://ipindiaservices.gov.in/decision/4668-DELNP-2007-35516/4668-delnp-2007%20refusal.pdf
The first objection comes directly into the heart of the matter and has a wording that surprises:
The examiner considered in essence that the exploitation of the claimed object is contrary to public order and morality, and falls under the provisions of Section 3 (b) of the Indian Patent Law, and is not acceptable.
The examiner further argues that importing and selling sex toys is considered “obscene” and therefore illegal in India.
Most surprisingly, these arguments are supported by Indian law. The examiner cites section 292 of the Indian Penal Code, and refers in addition to section 377. If the first concerns obscene objects whose definition interpreted by the examiner as including sex toys, seems debatable, the second refers to a prohibition of sexual intercourse that is unnatural biologically.

These objections seem insurmountable. The Applicant has obviously not made any counter-arguments.

Objections of this kind would surely have occurred also in countries where legislation is based on religious texts.

For the protection of this type of invention in “sensitive” countries, particular attention must be paid to provide, in the application, ways to overcome this type of objection where possible.

Unlike these countries, the protection of this type of invention at the European Patent Office does not raise this type of problem. Provisions of contravention of public order and morality exist (Article 53a EPC, GII4.1) but the corresponding objections are not conventionally raised for sextoys-type inventions. These objections are almost never raised in other cases.

The Guidelines for the EPO Examination provide in essence that if the invention in question would appear to the public [in all the EPO Contracting States] so repugnant that it would be inconceivable to patent it. The rejected applicant in India (STANDARD INNOVATION Corp.) has several European patents granted.

The EPO Directives mention, for example, a printer-type case with a good resolution enabling to make counterfeit banknotes. In this case, an objection may be raised, and will be surmountable by removing references to making counterfeit banknotes.

SOPERYAH IP

#IPLaw, #Brexit – Brexit and implementation of the unitary patent

As you may remember, legislative changes that have been expected for decades are currently underway across the European Union, in order to establish what is now called the European patent with unitary effect (which we will abbreviate as “unitary patent”). .

The unitary patent is intended to implement a single title valid throughout the European Union and for which infringement disputes may be ruled ar an European scale, contrary to the “classic” European patent for which at the end of the procedure for grant, the right holder obtains several independent territorial rights, within the competence of eah national jurisdiction.

The prerequisites for the entry into force of the unitary patent and of the unified court are almost all achieved with the exception of the ratification of Germany where a constitutional problem has been raised.

In these circumstances, the impact of Brexit could have caused great upheaval, but the British government announced that Brexit will have no influence on the unitary patent as already presented in our posts. The agreement on the Unified Patent Court was ratified by the United Kingdom on April 26, 2018.

However, the unitary patent is intended to cover the European Union only, which raises the question of the validity of the unitary patent in the United Kingdom.

The most likely solution will be to get closer to what will happen for the EU trade mark after the Brexit, as already discussed in our brief concerning the agreement protocol of 19 March 2019 on the application of Brexit. As you may remember, the EU trade mark will become a comparable English mark and its validity will be linked to that of the EU trade mark.

It therefore appears that the likely outcome will be the following: the European patent with unitary effect will have effect in EU countries, and will be validated in a conventional manner in non-EU states that are party to the European Patent Convention such as already today Switzerland and Turkey, and later the United Kingdom.

To follow closely …

SOPERYAH IP