The subject of protection and valorisation of creations is inherent to start-ups and innovative companies. Without industrial property, your innovations are not secure and are likely to be copied by your competitors. Geoffroy Cousin, President of Fidal Innovation and an industrial property attorney, answered our questions about protecting innovation.
The importance of industrial property for a start-up
Start-ups that undertake research and development projects are confronted with the problems of protecting their innovation and industrial property. The principle of industrial property is to grant property rights to one's creations and thus secure their exploitation. A certain number of steps are nevertheless necessary before your innovation is protected.
Protecting your innovations is important for large groups, but even more so for start-ups. The fact of having a monopoly and preventing copying allows you to deploy more freely and to accelerate your commercial development. Competition is pushed back and this attracts investors, whose entry of funds is secured by industrial property, explains Geoffroy Cousin.
The advantages of industrial property
- having a monopoly
- slow down or even prevent copying
- accelerate the growth of the company
- attract investors
- attract customers
- attract talent
- convey an innovative image
Systems to protect an innovation
The easiest way to protect an innovative creation is to keep it secret. Secrecy simply means not publicly disseminating the knowledge developed or acquired. Secrecy can complement or extend a patented innovation. The protection is unlimited as long as the secret exists.
However, secrecy is not an exclusive right: for example, if your competitors analyze your product and reproduce it, you cannot prevent them from doing so. Moreover, secrecy requires a strong involvement of the whole company.
Patenting is a very good way to protect an innovation, but it requires a lot of administrative steps in addition to being long and expensive. To protect your creation by patent, you must file a patent application with the INPI (the national institute of industrial property). After examination, your creation benefits from an industrial protection of 20 years.
Copyrights protect original artistic works: literary, musical, plastic, graphic, fashion, software, etc. The author automatically holds rights in principle on his work as soon as it is created, without any formalities. Copyright allows you to authorize or prohibit the distribution of your work.
However, you must be able to prove that you created the work. To confirm the date of creation of your work, there are several solutions: the Soleau envelope, the deposit with a ministerial officer or the deposit with a society of authors.
Registration of a design or model
The design registration protects the appearance of your products: colors, shapes, textures, lines and contours. You are the only one who can use it for up to 25 years in France. You are entitled to sue infringers.
The trademark registration allows you to protect the distinctive signs of your company, your products or your services from your competitors. In France, the term of use is 10 years.
To register your trademark, it must be available, i.e. it must not have already been registered by a competitor. The trademark registration is renewable in exchange for a fee.
Focus on patent registration
As an industrial property attorney, Geoffroy Cousin is an expert in patent registration. This is a topic on which he supports his clients within Fidal Innovation.
The patent is a system that requires administrative steps. It starts with the filing of a file, the patent application, with the INPI. It is necessary to explain the invention and to ask for its protection," explains Geoffroy Cousin. Then, an examination is carried out by the administration which checks the criteria of patentability. In short, the invention must be original to benefit from protection and described, i.e. it must be made available to the public through the publication of the patent application.
Getting a patent usually takes several years, and the steps must be taken country by country if you want to protect your innovation internationally. It's a long process, but then you get a monopoly granted for 20 years from the filing. After that, the patent falls into the public domain.
Once the patent is granted to the company, it has a monopoly to exploit its creation. It can easily prevent the competition from copying its product. Moreover, the simple application for a patent can be sufficient to keep competitors at bay," adds Geoffroy Cousin. Indeed, once the patent is granted, the competitor must stop copying. For a competitor who is aware that the start-up has filed a patent application, it is therefore better to avoid this industrial investment.
Fidal Innovation at the service of innovation protection
Geoffroy Cousin has been a patent attorney, a regulated legal profession, since 2002. After having practiced for more than 15 years with the Plasseraud firm, he joined the Fidal group, the leading French law firm, to found Fidal Innovation.
Fidal Innovation is an industrial property law firm. The objective was to create this consulting firm specialized in the protection of innovation to provide a complete legal service to Fidal's clients. The issue of patents was recurrent in their legal problems: integrating this competence to Fidal's field of intervention became essential.
The patent system can be complicated to understand and lasts up to 20 years, so it is important for companies to be accompanied by a firm like Fidal Innovation, at the heart of their R&D strategy. Geoffroy Cousin and his team work on all issues related to the protection of innovations: patent filing, patent taxation, relations with public research organizations, different protection systems, copies, exploitation and free competition, etc.
Take advantage of Fidal Innovation's support directly on the Saclay plateau: the firm is opening an office there at the end of August. The IP attorneys are thus in the immediate vicinity of the entrepreneurship and innovation center of the École Polytechnique and the companies in the sector.