History of Patents – Phillip Vales Review Patent CEO : 2

French Patents

Continuing our discussion of the history of patents in the Old World we return to the nation of France where in 1555 King Henry II decreed that a specification including a complete written description of the invention

was to be published for

French Royal Patent
French Royal Patent

each invention desiring patent protection.  Whilst a certain Mr. Foullon produced a rangefinder device which he received letters patent for, its specification was not published until well after the patent had expired.

At this time various different groups in France could grant letters patent including the Monarch itself, the household of the king (Maison Du Roi) and the Parliament of Paris.    It should be noted dear reader that yes even at this time a parliament existed well before the revolution of the late 1700s; the parliament was an appellate court in the Ancien Regime of France.  The French Academy of Sciences was empowered to review the validity of the request for patent rights.

Early reviews of the issued patents were printed as digests beginning in 1720; however, due to the sporadic periods of publication there was sometimes many decades of delays.  At this time, contrary to the old system of King Henry, no publication was necessary and the review of a pending patent was ordinarily a somewhat clandestine affair.  Indeed, even the simple public use of the concept was seemingly sufficient to presume publication of the invention as opposed to a complete written description wanted previously.  Many years would pass until the modernization of the patent system in France in 1791.

Modern French Patent Law

Over the years, the Kings of France extended a system of incentives for the creation of novelties and the subsequent reception of patent rights.  Petitioners could receive titles, financial incentives, lands, subsidies, exemptions and more.  Whilst the revolution in France would change the world such that its effects are still felt globally, the system of rewards and incentives granted to inventors carried over into the New Regime.

1791 was a milestone in many ways including the patent laws which were modified in that year.  Reduced to a simplistic registrations system, applicants would automatically receive a registration even if told by the government that the patent was possibly illegal.  Patents could not be granted on scientific theories or things having no realizable applicability; also, financial systems and copyright items such as literature were not patentable.

The issuance of such a registration held that patentees had no guarantee of financial success with the invention, its timeliness or value of the patent.  Additionally, an inventor could determine for how long he or she wanted to keep the patent active.  In other words, the longer you wanted the patent to be active the more you had to pay.

Thus, was born the ‘Maintenance Fees’ whereby the government is paid every so often to keep your patent active.  At that time, you could specify a time frame of 5, 10 or 15 years ranging from 300 livres to 1500 livres.  This was increased about forty years later when inflation forced the cost to climb to 500 francs, 1000 francs, 1500 francs for 5, 10 and 15 year patent terms.