Canada: Le Pot De Beurre D’arachide Qui Protège Vos Manches (Ou Essai Sur La Pertinence D’une Etude En Brevetabilité)

En parcourant notre blogue hier soir, je remarquais qu'aucun de mes collègues ne s'était, jusqu'ici, lancé dans l'aventure d'expliquer à quoi sert une étude en brevetabilité.

Bien entendu, toute personne s'étant déjà aventurée dans une démarche de brevet sait qu'il s'agit d'une étape optionnelle où une opinion est émise par notre agent de brevet préféré pour nous aider à prendre une décision d'affaires à savoir si cela vaut la peine ou non d'investir davantage dans une démarche de brevet pour une invention donnée.

Ceci dit, l'étape de l'étude en brevetabilité coûte de l'argent et est très imparfaite. Comment savoir s'il y a lieu d'y investir son argent ou non?

Tout d'abord, si vous avez déjà rendu votre invention accessible au public, nul besoin d'analyse! Votre invention n'est déjà plus brevetable dans la majorité des pays. Si cette divulgation a eu lieu il y a plus d'un an, l'invention n'est plus brevetable en Amérique du Nord non plus. (Très désolé si vous déchantez à la lecture de cette dernière ligne, il s'agit d'une des limites du système des brevets tel qu'on le connaît depuis plus de cent ans.)

Maintenant, considérant les autres scénarios, comme l'objectif de l'étude en brevetabilité est de valider la décision de se lancer ou non dans une démarche de brevet, il est clair que ça ne vaut pas la peine de payer plus cher pour l'opinion en brevetabilité que ce que coûterait la démarche de brevet elle-même.

Ainsi, l'objectif n'est pas d'envoyer une centaine de chercheurs sur six continents afin d'essayer de dénicher le mémoire de maîtrise qui décrirait votre invention mais qui est disponible pour consultation uniquement dans les archives d'un temple bouddhiste accessible seulement par un sentier aride sur une montagne au Tibet. Oui, la découverte de ce document pourrait rendre votre brevet invalide, mais entendons-nous sur le fait que, de toute façon, il y a de bonnes chances que personne ne le découvre durant les 20 années (ou 21 années – au plaisir de lire les commentaires des lecteurs aguerris qui relèveront la nuance dans la section 'commentaires' ci-dessous) de durée de votre brevet. Une question similaire se posait à une certaine époque face aux brevets Japonais, aujourd'hui de plus en plus accessibles grâce à des outils tel Google TranslateTM.

À l'autre opposé du spectre, j'aimerais vous raconter une histoire de pot de beurre de pinotte qui protège les manches (prière d'excuser le terrible anglicisme, irrésistible dans l'atmosphère détendue d'un blogue), histoire qui est survenue lors d'une de mes premières années de pratique, soit en 2004.

Roger (nom fictif et clin d'Sil à ma collègue Alexandra) vient me voir en m'expliquant son idée. Comme moi, qui sortait tout récemment de la longue traversée des études à ce moment, Roger achetait son beurre d'arachide en format familial. Si vous faites de même, vous comprendrez sûrement le fait que, quoique le format familial soit économique, il pose néanmoins l'inconvénient qu'une fois arrivé au fond du grand pot, la longueur du pot et l'ouverture restreinte offerte par le col sur lequel se visse le couvercle gêne quelque peu le mouvement et il arrive que lorsque l'on agite notre couteau pour gratter le fond du pot, on accroche soit avec le poignet, ou pire encore avec la manche, le beurre d'arachide qui demeure collé près du col, ce qui est fâcheux.

L'invention ici consistait en un pot 10 qui se séparait en deux de façon à ce qu'une fois la partie supérieure du pot consommée, la section du haut 14 pouvait être dévissée et séparée de la section du bas 16 sur laquelle le couvercle 12 pouvait être revissée dans la configuration de la Fig. 3. Les numéros de référence ci-dessus font référence aux pièces identifiées de la même façon dans le sketch ci-dessous :

Pour donner une touche de réalisme à ce billet, (et rassurer toute personne qui serait inquiète au sujet des droits d'auteur) j'aimerais souligner que ce sketch est le sketch original que j'avais fait moi-même à l'époque et que j'avais inclus dans le mandat de recherche transmis au recherchiste spécialisé (un consultant externe spécialiste des recherches en brevets).

Or, une semaine ou deux plus tard, le recherchiste me rapporte une dizaine de brevets et de demandes de brevet publiées parmi lesquelles se trouve la demande de brevet US 2002/130126 avec les images suivantes :

À ce jour, selon mon expérience, cela demeure le meilleur exemple d'un mandat d'étude en brevetabilité qui a valu tout l'argent qui y a été investi! (imaginez mon air ahuri lorsque j'ai remarqué les numéros de références 10, 12 et 14 utilisés pour les mêmes pièces dans le document que m'a remis le recherchiste.)

Il n'est évidemment pas possible d'avoir une certitude absolue qu'un brevet valide sera délivré au terme du processus de dépôt de brevet. Le premier obstacle potentiel à considérer (hormis le fait que les recherchistes ne sont pas toujours parfaits) provient du fait que les demandes de brevet sont conservées dans un état de confidentialité durant les 18 premiers mois suivant le dépôt initial, ce qui cause un « angle mort » lorsque nous faisons des recherches visant à déterminer si une demande de brevet portant sur une technologie similaire a déjà été déposée par une tierce partie.

Ainsi, même avec l'outil informatique formidable et gratuit que constitue le site Internet « Google Patents » accessible à tous aujourd'hui, ainsi que les outils informatiques et l'entraînement encore plus formidables qui font l'apanage des recherchistes spécialisés, le public n'a pas accès aux demandes de brevet déposée il y a moins de 18 mois.

Par ailleurs, hormis la question de la nouveauté de la technologie, centrale à la brevetabilité, les examinateurs en brevets, qui ont la responsabilité de s'assurer que le gouvernement n'émette pas de brevet qui ne répondent pas à la loi et aux règles en la matière, peuvent formuler des objections portant sur d'autres points. Par exemple, la question de l' « inventivité », souvent débattue avec l'examinateur, peut revêtir un caractère subjectif (nous avons tendance à être d'accord avec vous au sujet du caractère inventif de votre technologie, mais les examinateurs semblent préférer débattre de la question). Un autre point, souvent soulevé par les examinateurs en brevets dans le domaine de l'informatique, est la question de l'éligibilité de la technologie à la protection par brevet. Ainsi, un agent de brevet aguerri est susceptible de vous donner une idée de ce qui peut vous attendre durant la phase d'examen de votre demande de brevet éventuelle.

Je ne sais pas pour vous, mais en ce qui me concerne, écrire cet article m'a donné faim.

Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP

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