Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Making French Industry a Frontrunner in Innovation

Well, it looks like I failed miserably on the blog up-to-date act ;-) Never mind, at least I can still carry on putting odd articles in from time to time, that's the really cool thing about blogs, and it doesn't matter if nobody reads them.

Since my last post, we have seen the rise and fall of the CII Directive : in the end parliament finally got its way, and the Commission got one big smack in the chops. Personally, I think this is a good thing - better not to have poor law, than a fundamentally flawed one. So that chapter is closed for the time being, until the pro-patent protection lobby come back in about 5 to 10 years time...

What else is new on this front that warrants a rant from yours truly ? Oh yes, the French government has introduced a new set of fees for IP filings in France, which of course have been increased, fairly significantly in some cases. I'm just waiting to hear how much of the INPI's increased intake will be siphoned off by the government to finance other projects totally unrelated to innovation, like the huge whole in the social security system, or meeting the budget deficit ;-)

To be fair, the government have also introduced a new fee schedule for SMEs, but it is unclear at the moment whether they will apply to foreign entities, since the decree that lays out the application of the new law hasn't been passed yet and won't be until January 2006 - typical. The new fee regime allows a 25% reduction in official fees for the major fees, i.e. the filing fee, search fee, and extra claims fee. Renewal fees will also be covered by the reduction.

The reduction is available to individual inventors, public research institutes, and small business that have fewer than 500 employees, generate less than 50 Million Euros annual turnover, and are not held at more than 25% share by a company not eligible for the reduction. The reduction is available simply by filing a declaration. Financial sanctions will be imposed for those applicants who misrepresent the truth, but there appears to be no counterpart to the unenforcibility rule that exists, say in Canada or the US. Similarly, and in true French legislative fashion, it is uncertain whether an applicant must keep the French Patent Office (INPI) informed of any changes in its status. In theory for French applicants at least, the French PTO (INPI) is the guardian of the nationwide commercial register, so it should be relatively easy for them to check up on potential fraudsters that are French domiciled, but I see no way of the INPI being able to keep tabs on foreign companies not registered in France. Should be fun to watch, in any case.

How do I feel about this new incentive to get French businesses to file for IP rights ? Personally, too little, too late, and especially, completely out of touch with market reality in the world today. The reductions won't be available for French companies wanting to file European applications, even if they designate France, nor PCT applications, by the looks of it, and I really must ask myself what the point of the whole maneuver was in the first place : promotion of French SME competitivity in the French market place ? Hardly, considering that these home markets are essentially dwindling in the face of foreign imports and globalisation. What else then ? The cynic in me says political rhetoric, vote counting, and looming presidential elections in 2007. To be frank, I'm really not convinced that these measures will do anything to promote and strengthen French SMEs in the world market as it is developing today.

Well, all for now, toodle pip !!!