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At a time when technological advances are almost constant, a company’s ability to innovate is a guarantee of its continued competitiveness and survival.

But innovation is not enough.

To maintain the competitive edge a company hopes to gain, it must also think about protecting its innovations.

In this context, what role does industrial property play?

In particular, are patents sufficient protection? How can we make the best use of this tool and plan our strategy over the long term? Here’s how.

Industrial property: definition and issues

Industrial property aims to protect and promote inventions, innovations and industrial and commercial creations. To this end, it encompasses

Patents ;
Utility certificates;
Industrial designs and models;
Geographical indications protecting industrial and craft products.

In France, the INPI (Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle) is the authority responsible for protecting industrial property rights. Applications for these rights can therefore be filed with this body as a matter of priority.

The aim of industrial property is to provide you with legal protection when you are the originator of an inventive creation, and you wish to retain a monopoly on its exploitation for 20 years, which is the very purpose of the patent. Without this legal tool, your competitors would be entitled to re-use and market your invention.

Industrial property is therefore a key competitive tool if you are an innovative player in your market.

Technology start-up project leaders who are preparing to raise funds are well aware of this. They will need to provide serious proof of the barriers to entry that they will be able to generate in the face of larger, established competitors.

The 3 criteria that must be met for a patent to be accepted

  • It must be new: no trace of prior art for the claimed invention must be found. Nobody (including yourself) must have spoken publicly about what you want to patent.
  • Be inventive: the claimed invention must not be obvious to a person skilled in the art. In other words, you cannot file a patent on a process that is obvious and within everyone’s reach, such as « filling a glass with water ».
  • Have an industrial application: It is impossible to claim a common good or a natural effect that is not the result of invention or ingenuity on the part of men of art. The subject of the invention must claim a technical effect.

Industrial property: is it absolutely necessary to apply for a patent?

So when you’re developing a new technology, filing a patent can really be essential. But there are also situations in which it is useful NOT to file a patent!

Filing a patent is like antibiotics: it’s not automatic!

Filing a patent will be worthwhile if it :

enables you to generate a real advantage over your competitors
or enhances your company’s image or increases your chances of obtaining funding (PIA, fund-raising, Accelerators, CIR/CII, etc.).

On the other hand, it may be in your interest to protect your intellectual property in other ways* if, for example :

  • Proof of infringement will be difficult to provide (reverse engineering)
  • Your claims are very specific and can easily be circumvented (by changing an ingredient or the proportions and composition of a recipe)
  • The pace of innovation is so fast that obsolescence will catch up with the invention before the end of the patent application cycle.
  • Or when you think it’s better to propose standards to the market by leaving the technology free of rights

(*and in particular to preserve your freedom of future exploitation)

And once the patent has been filed?

Filing your patent application is not the end of the adventure. For this investment to be really worthwhile, you will now have to keep an eye on your competitors’ patent applications (and even more so)!

Why should you do this?

There are several reasons for doing this:

  • Make sure over time that the expenditure you continue to incur (geographical extensions, annual maintenance of rights) continues to be justified and useful. Conversely, there is no point in continuing to maintain an obsolete patent or one that has been circumvented a hundred times.
  • Keep an eye on potential infringers: keep an eye on your competitors and their future filings and, if necessary, intervene with the patent office… if a contentious competitor’s patent receives a favourable response. You could always contest it later before the ad hoc courts, but this would be more costly and also more risky.
  • Weakening competing patent applications: monitoring the competition is a good way of blocking the granting of a patent that could prove embarrassing for your company. Once a pending patent application has been published (after the initial application has been kept secret for 18 months), you have a few months in which to justify to the examining board that it does not comply, for example because of a lack of inventiveness or because it is based on another document that was already in the public domain before the date on which the patent in question was filed.


That’s why it’s so important to keep an eye on patent applications filed in your sector of activity… and also to monitor scientific publications and conferences.


Read also: Prior art and patent searches: the guide

Keeping a watch on your competitors’ patent activities helps to protect your innovations and manage your own patent portfolio effectively. It will also enable you to detect and prosecute potential infringers, or to block at an early stage any applications from your competitors that could prove embarrassing for you.


Industrial property: how do you monitor all new patent applications?

In some business sectors, as many as 1,000 to 1,500 new patent applications may be published worldwide every month.

However, experience shows that only 10 to 15% of these are relevant to monitor.

Given the sheer volume of data to be processed and the strategic nature of this task, it can take up to 4 or 5 days a month for one person to carry out this activity. Not only is this a time-consuming task, it is often seen as a tedious one, with good reason, and not very rewarding for monitoring and analysis teams. Fortunately, there are Machine Learning tools that enable this work to be carried out quickly and efficiently…

Read also: State of the art: how can you relieve your teams of time-consuming yet strategic work?

Designed to facilitate and accelerate the analysis of heterogeneous data, the IPMetrix software developed by TKM automates this patent watch. Our solution provides a global, 360° view of a given universe, enabling fast, relevant searches and analysis of multi-source data.

Detection of troublesome patents, mapping of competitor patents, identification of infringers, construction of a map of your strategic environment and your research and innovation ecosystem… Thanks to IPMetrix, you can protect your innovations as effectively as possible by carrying out targeted monitoring of the competition, and spend no more than 10 minutes a month on the tedious tasks that this activity inevitably entails. Would you like to find out more about the possibilities offered by our tool? Contact us !



Author y.belrhiti-alaoui

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