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Protecting IP With Employment Agreements in France

September 19, 2019

An employer in France does not automatically own the intellectual property rights on industrial or artistic works created by employees in the course of their employment, even when such employees were specifically hired to invent or develop technologies. Extra care must therefore be taken when drafting employment agreements to ensure exclusive ownership on all intellectual property attached to inventions or developments conceived in the employment relationship.

French law considers authors as independent individuals irrespective of their employment status; and per French copyright law, the creation and the intellectual property rights attached to it belong to the author, even if the creation was made at work with the means made available to the employee by the employer. Software is one of the rare exceptions for which the French IP code clearly states that the company owns ab initio any and all rights created by employees in the course of their employment. The creation of software does not legally entitle the employee to any compensation in addition to regular salary.

Given the variety of protectable rights, the drafting of IP clauses can be a lengthy and technical process. If templates and generic clauses may seem useful, a detailed and tailor-made clause drafted by specialists well versed in both employment law and IP is key to adequately and effectively protect the company’s investments in research and development. Given the stakes, it would be worth carefully addressing this topic in the employment contract.

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