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FAQ

Trademarks

How long does a French trademark remain in force ?
A trademark is valid for 10 years after its registration.

It may be renewed for a further period of 10 years, without any limit to the number of times it is renewed.

This operation must be carried out during the six-month period before the trademark's expiry date; however an extra period of six months is available to the holder after the expiry date to carry out his renewal operation subject to payment of a surtax.

Therefore, the trademark is the only intellectual property right capable of giving unlimited protection over time.
I would like to register a trademark, but, apparently, it already exists.
A trademark that is liable to infringe prior third-party rights cannot be registered.

Therefore, before registering any application for a trademark, you must make sure that your sign is available for the products and services that you want to cover.

Initially, the INPI Internet site offers you a service for searching for trademarks that have already been registered.

It enables you to look for any trademarks that are already registered, or for which an application has already been made, using the sign you intend to file.

Secondly, it is strongly advised that you look for trademarks that are similar to your project.

Any imitation of a trademark for identical or similar products or services may also constitute a counterfeit of the trademark, if ever a likelihood of confusion exists for the consumer.

Lastly, it is important to point out that other prior rights must also be taken into consideration before registering a trademark, more especially corporate names, domain names or even copyright.

By contacting an Attorney, you can carry out all these operations in total peace of mind.

Copyright

I am the victim of forgery on my literary and artistic creations. What can I do ?
Should your copyright be infringed, you must collect all evidence of the priority of your rights over the counterfeit product, which will be easy if your creation has been registered using a Soleau envelope or a bailiffs seal (the means of dating your creation and its contents). Otherwise, this anteriority could be shown by any dated article, catalogue, etc that presents your creation in relation with its creator.

It must then be shown that your rights have been infringed. Several procedures can be considered, depending on the type of infringement observed (on-site seizure of works infringing copyright, a bailiff's certified report on Internet if the infringement has been recorded on line, etc).

Of course, as copyright is only recognized for "original" works (works that reflect the personality of their creator), prior work must be carried out to characterise the originality of your work.

Once all these procedures have been carried out, an amicable or contentious approach can be envisaged.
Is the use of the symbol © subject to authorisation ?
The symbol © and the word « copyright » originate from the United States, where, under the influence of previous Law, a work could not benefit from protection by copyright unless it had been registered with the Copyright office beforehand. The objective of marking the sign © or the word « copyright » was to inform third parties that this formality had been carried out.

This requirement to register disappeared on March 1, 1989, when the United States adhered to the Berne Convention of 1886 for protecting literary and artistic works, which instituted automatic protection of works in its member countries, as soon as they are created and without any formalities, in the sense that protection does not require the work to be registered to prove its existence.
The result is that, since then, the symbol © or the word « copyright » have become optional, because protection by copyright is now possible, irrespective of whether the work has been registered with the Copyright office or not.

Please take note that, even if this registration formality with the Copyright office is no longer an essential condition for copyright ackowledgement, it is still highly recommended, because :
- In the case of works of American origin (for example, works that have been disclosed for the first time in the United States), this registration is essential for bringing any action for infringement in front of the American Courts
- In front of the courts, registration will constitute initial evidence of the validity of copyright and the facts indicated in the Copyright certificate, whenever registration has been made before the work has been disclosed, or within five years of its disclosure date
- When registration has been made within three months following the disclosing of the work, or before any infringement, the creator of the work (or the owner of the rights) may obtain legal compensation and refund of his attorney fees, as well as compensation of the real damages that he has undergone and the profits made by the infringing party, which are due in all cases
- Such registration will enable the creator (or the owner of the right) to also register the Copyright Certificate with the United States Customs and Excise authorities, and protect himself against any imported imitations.

In France, where protection of copyright has never been subject to prior registration, adding the symbol © or the word « copyright », or even « all rights reserved » is also optional. The presence or absence of these words will not have any effect on possible means of action, or on the amount of alleged damages.

However, from a commercial and strategic point of view, using these words may prove to be important, because they inform the public that the work is protected by copyright, they identify the owner of copyright and they indicate the year on which the work was disclosed for the first time.

As every country has its own specific legislation on the matter, the legal impact of using the symbol© or the word « copyright », and, more generally, any words or symbols for identifying intellectual property rights ( ™, ®, etc) requires to be analysed individually.

Do not hesitate to contact us for any advice you require on this question.

Models and Designs

How can I check whether a model or a design is not all ready covered ?
Registering a model or a design generates an exclusive right for its owner to prevent any possible copies or imitations from being made of his model or design without his authorisation. Otherwise, he has the right to take action for infringement against the counterfeiter.

To be valid, a model or design must be new and possess its distinctive character.

In other words the model or design must not :
- Be identical or virtually identical to any model or design that has already been disclosed
- Give rise to a feeling of « déjà vu » in the public mind in relation to a model or design that has already been disclosed.

To check the validity of your model or design, research on priority can be carried out, more especially by consulting the INPI database on models and designs and the Official Industrial Property Gazettes.

However, any such research is always difficult to interpret inasmuch as :
- Some creations have never been registered; for example, no database exists on Copyright
- Priorities are limited neither in time nor in space;

Therefore, research on priority can never be exhaustive, and in front of the financial costs that may be generated, we invite you to consult us to check whether any such research is relevant before registering your model or design.
How much does it cost to register a model or design in France ?
In France, models and designs are registered with the INPI at a cost which varies not only accounting to the contents of the application, but also depending on the number of reproductions supplied.

Therefore, the cost is made up of :
- Fixed fees (irrespective of the number of models and designs registered), due at the time of registration with the INPI: from €38 (for an initial protection of five years) to €88 (for an initial period of 10 years)
- Fees that vary depending on the number and nature of reproductions: from €22 (per black-and-white reproduction) to €45 (per colour reproduction).

Do not hesitate to consult us for a complete and accurate quotation on the costs of registering your model or design.

For information an international and community system of models and designs exists depending on the area to be covered by your operation.
What is the EUROLOCARNO classification
EUROLOCARNO corresponds to a translation into all the languages used in the European Union of the « Locarno classification » instituted by the Locarno arrangement of 1968 and administered by the WIPO.

This multilateral treaty (49 signatory states on January 1, 2009) has instituted an international classification for industrial models and designs used by national offices.

In this way, applicants for models and designs can refer to a single classification system when presenting their application for registration to their national offices.

This classification includes 32 classes and 219 subclasses in which the products where industrial models and designs are inserted are classified.

It has no legal value, but it enables models to be classified in large families, which makes searching easier.

New technologies

Can I protect a database ?
A database is a structured form of information.

It can be protected by copyright and by a specific database Law.

On one hand, copyright can protect the form of the database (means presentation, organization...).

This will only apply on condition that the database fulfils originality criteria concerning its aesthetics, its set up or even its structure.

On the other hand, a specific database right can apply to the contents of the database.

Protection of this information is subject to important conditions: the main one being the existence of a substantial investment on the part of the creator when the database was being created.

This criterion is very subjective and therefore varies depending on the situation. Moreover, the European Union Court of Justice has proved to be extremely strict in its assessment of this criterion.
Can I protect an Internet site ?
It is, ondeed, possible to protect an Internet site, irrespective of whether this concerns its name or its contents.

Once it has been reserved, the domain name can also be registered as a trademark in relation to the products and services distributed on the site. This is to be able to benefit from an industrial property title, which is notably more easily opposable to cyber squatters.

Moreover, a watch should be kept permanently over the name to make sure that no competitor is using it as a trademark, a company name or a domain name under another extension. This will enable you to react rapidly and at the right moment.

As far as the site's contents are concerned (graphic chart, images, etc), it may benefit from copyright protection provided that it is "original", i.e. that it reflects the personality of its creator.

As copyright is born solely from creation, it is recommended that an exact date is conferred to the date of creation and the contents of the site, to justify the site's priority in case of dispute, by proving its existence at a given date. It is also recommended that artistic choices made for creating site contents be highlighted for characterising the originality of these contents.

This date can be obtained by different means (deposit by bailiff, Soleau envelope, etc.)

An IP Attorney would be able to define the best protection and defence strategy for your Internet site together with you.
Is it possible to appropriate a domain name for oneself, even if it already exists with another extension ?
The existence of an identical or similar domain name in another extension does not necessarily mean that this domain name is unavailable.

The name will only be considered unavailable if it gives rise to a likelihood of confusion with the existing domain name, i.e. when the activity planned gives rise to a risk of confusion with the activity on the existing site. Therefore, this risk will be appreciated depending on the contents of the existing Internet site.

Beyond checking existing domain names in other extensions, before making any reservation it is also recommended to make sure that the domain name does not infringe any prior third-party rights (names of companies, trademarks, etc).

Calling on an Attorney will enable you to make all these prior checks in compliance with legislation and evolutions in jurisprudence.

Contractual techniques

Should any free-of-charge transfer of rights on a work be covered by a contract ?
The requirement of payment concerning the transfer of copyright has no effect on the need to conclude a copyright transfer contract.

As, in principle, copyright is born in the name of its creator, it is essential for any company that gives work to third parties, e.g. a freelance worker, to obtain copyrights from this person for reproducing and representing his works legally.
Now, as the texts in the intellectual property code are extremely protective as far as creators' rights are concerned, it is recommended that a deed of transfer be drawn up in writing, even if a transfer is granted free of charge, to make sure that all the modes of exploitation are specified and considered, as, in terms of copyright, « everything that is not provided for is forbidden ».
Can a commission contract be unlimited in time ?
A commission contract in advertising is one of the contracts specifically covered by the intellectual property code (L132-31 of the Code). It is a specific contract, inasmuch as the code provides for specific provision concerning the conditions under which the work ordered is to be used, the geographical area concerned and the duration of the transfer which cannot be longer than five years.
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