The French Patent & Trademark Office (the INPI announced on 16 December 2016 the launch of the electronic version of the ‘Soleau envelope’ (the ‘e-Soleau’). This innovation makes it now possible to establish directly on the INPI website, at any time evidence of any creation, concept or invention and to benefit from secure archiving having probative value, at limited cost.

In a press release dated 16 December 2016, the French National Institute of Industrial Property ( theINPI) announced the launch of the electronic version of the ‘Soleau envelope’ (the so-called ‘e-Soleau’).

This innovation makes it possible to establish directly online on the INPI website, and at any time evidence of the date of any creation, concept or invention and to benefit from a secure archive having probative value.

The Soleau envelope, until now available in paper form only, is a relatively simple and inexpensive means of proof, allowing for the protection of a creation and giving an accurate date to a project or an idea. In the event of a dispute, the Soleau envelope can be disclosed before the relevant court. It does not, however, constitute a form of Intellectual Property Right.

In practice, use of the Soleau envelope mainly covers:

  • Copyright (literary works, musical works, graphic designs, visual arts, fashion designs, other creations, software). To the extent that there is no filing for copyright, the Soleau envelope makes it possible to date a creation with certainty
  • Neighboring rights related to copyright (performers, producers of videograms and phonograms).
  • The protection of an idea or project (business or service concepts)
  • The protection of an invention (making it possible to safeguard secrecy and establish the date of an invention before the filing of a potential patent application or to protect research work from possible indiscretions or against the possibility of claiming in France a right based on prior possession)

The filing requirements for the e-Soleau envelope are set out in detail in Decision No. 2016-273 dated 13 December 2016 of the Director General of the INPI (link to INPI's explanatory page: inpi.fr).

The traditional paper version of the Soleau envelope remains in use for now.

Key points:

  • Price: The basic e-Soleau envelope (up to 10 MB) costs the same as the paper envelope, i.e., €15. An additional fee of €10 is payable for each additional 10 MB
  • Content: It is possible to file up to three files/documents, limited to 100 MB each, by means of an e-Soleau envelope. This means the maximum size of the e-Soleau envelope is 300 MB. The INPI provides a list of the different file formats accepted: general format (.zip, .pdf, etc.); audio format (.mp3, .mp4, etc.); image format (.gif, .jpeg, etc.) and video format (.mp4). This innovation is significant since the traditional Soleau envelope allowed very limited content (a maximum of seven A4 sheets and no hard copy on a CD or similar). As regards software, an equivalent filing service was previously limited to providers other than the INPI, such as the Agency for the Protection of Programs (APP)
  • Duration: The period for retention by the INPI has not changed: it remains at five years. This can be renewed upon termination for another five years. However, it is now possible to provide direct protection for a period of 10 years. At the end of the retention period, the e-Soleau envelope is permanently destroyed by the INPI

This innovation is welcome. It will undoubtedly constitute a new and very valuable tool at the disposal of companies and creators in the protection of their innovations and creations.