All questions

Intellectual property

i Brand search

To be effective against third parties, trademarks need to be registered at the appropriate intellectual property (IP) offices: nationally at the National Institute of Industrial Property in France (INPI), at EC level with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), or worldwide with the World Intellectual Property Organization. Trademark clearance searches can easily be performed using the online trademark databases, updated by the IP offices, to assess the availability of trademarks and prevent infringement of third parties' rights. These databases also allow verification of the status of registration of trademarks, their ownership, the existence of registered licences and sometimes oppositions made by third parties. Company names may also be included in clearance searches thanks to the online commercial registry database. As concerns designs, even though online databases are also available, clearance searches require dedicated tools. Certain forms or fittings may not be protected by registered trademarks or designs, in which case French rules on copyright may apply. As copyrights are not registered in France, searching third parties' rights is far more complicated.

ii Brand protection

Whatever the IP office involved, the registration process follows the same main steps, namely (1) filing and payment of the fee, (2) publication by the relevant IP office of the trademark or design on a special bulletin, (3) examination of the filing request and possible oppositions by third parties and (4) provided the oppositions are rejected by the relevant office and the filing complies with the examination requirements, formal registration of the filed trademark or design. The process takes at least five months at the INPI and 26 weeks at the EUIPO (provided no oppositions are filed).

iii Enforcement

Franchise agreements typically let the franchisor take any action that it deems necessary to protect its distinctive signs, whether through court actions or interim measures. This derives from applicable Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR) norms in France and from the European Code of Ethics for Franchising, whereby the franchisor must allow the franchisee to peacefully enjoy the right to use the relevant distinctive signs. If the franchisor does not take appropriate steps to protect this right, despite an official written request from the franchisee, the franchisee may sue third parties on grounds of trademark infringement (and may also request the seizure of counterfeit products). Furthermore, any franchisee is entitled to start legal proceedings on grounds of unfair competition.

iv Data protection, cybercrime, social media and e-commerce

French data protection legislation applies to any 'data controllers' that are (1) either located in France, (2) or located in a country that is not a Member State of the European Union but use processing means on French territory.

Pursuant to this legislation, franchisors or franchisees have to comply with numerous obligations, such as providing the data subjects (e.g., consumers) with specific information and filing declarations with the French data protection authority, the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL). Certain use of personal data may be subject to prior authorisation from the CNIL. This is particularly the case where data is transferred to an entity located outside the European Union. Since May 2018, the EU General Data Protection Regulation has been in force in France.

Failure to comply with this legislation may lead to sanctions by both the CNIL and French criminal courts.

Cybercrime, social media and e-commerce are subject to general laws, such as criminal law, contract law, data protection law, consumer law, etc. Some specific provisions related to e-commerce have been implemented into French law by the EU Directive on electronic commerce dated 8 June 2000.