Summary: the obligation to declare patent applications for "sensitive" inventions is not new. The practical arrangements have recently been indicated in a Decree and an Order, and whose practical implications for applicants are summarized below.
As a reminder, companies manufacturing:
- War materials and defense weapons and ammunition in categories A (prohibited from acquisition and possession) and B (subject to authorization for acquisition and possession),1
- Materials Subject to an export authorization,2
- Materials related to war materials or dual-use goods within the meaning of Regulation (EC) No 428/2009,3
are required to declare any filing of "sensitive" patent applications to the Directorate General of Armaments (Direction Gnrale de l'Armement - DGA) within 8 days of the filing date.4 The objective of such an obligation is to facilitate the work of the DGA in selecting inventions to be prohibited from disclosure, and to reduce the risk of disclosures that may threaten the interests of the Nation.5
Even though this obligation is not new (it already existed in 2004), the precise list of materials concerned6 and the practical modalities7 have only recently been clarified.
The inventions referred to can be both product and process inventions. The "sensitive" inventions may relate to non-traditional military domains such as software (in particular piloting software for military equipment, cryptographic software, etc.). They may also relate to dual-use goods, for example peacekeeping equipment, inventions in the nuclear domain, or materials that can be used to combat chemical or bacteriological threats.
The declaration is established directly by the applicant, and is filed with Intellectual Property and General Affairs Division (Sous-Direction de la Proprit intellectuelle et des Affaires gnrales SDPA) of the DGA, either in writing or in a dematerialized manner via the Ministry of the Armed Forces (Ministre des Armes) website.
It is recommended to summarize the information in a table:
Thus, in most cases, only 2 numbers need to be provided. Any description of the invention should be avoided to prevent the risk of accidental disclosure or collusion. Employees of the DGA will study the invention in the INPI (French National Institute of Intellectual Property - Institut National de la Proprit Intellectuelle - INPI) offices, and will determine the relevance of a prohibition of disclosure for the invention.8
Generally, for inventions where the "non-sensitive" classification does not require a thorough review, the authorization for disclosure shall be issued within fifteen days of filing.9