France: En mai fais ce qu'il te plait : la France prépare la JUB… et surprend avec l'imprescriptibilité des actions en nullité de brevet

Last Updated: 16 May 2018
Article by Grégoire Desrousseaux, Francois Pochart, Mathilde Rauline and Abdelaziz Khatab
Most Read Contributor in France, October 2018

Une ordonnance1 qui modifiera le code de la propriété intellectuelle (CPI) vient d'être publiée au journal officiel. Elle vise à mettre le CPI en conformité avec les textes instituant le brevet européen à effet unitaire (BU) et la juridiction unifiée du brevet (JUB).

Cette ordonnance entrera en vigueur comme l'accord sur la JUB, le 1er jour du 4ième mois après la ratification de l'Allemagne.

Elle intervient quelques jours après la ratification par le Royaume-Uni de l'accord alors que le Brexit avait jeté le doute sur la possibilité même d'une telle ratification et donc, de la pérennité du projet. L'entrée en vigueur de l'accord sur la JUB n'attend plus que la ratification par l'Allemagne qui n'interviendra pas avant la décision de la Cour Constitutionnelle allemande, laquelle doit statuer sur la conformité de l'accord avec la constitution.

Plusieurs sujets abordés dans l'ordonnance auront un impact certain sur le contentieux des brevets, et la pratique contentieuse et contractuelle des acteurs. L'ordonnance prévoit par exemple

- le cumul de protection possible entre un brevet français et un brevet européen qui n'aura pas fait l'objet d'un opt-out,

- une modification de la notion d'épuisement des droits, dans lequel le consentement du titulaire du brevet à la première mise en circulation du produit n'est pas forcément « exprès »,

- la possibilité pour le licencié non-exclusif d'engager une action en contrefaçon (si le contrat de licence le prévoit et si le licencié a informé le breveté avant d'engager l'action), ou

- l'imprescriptibilité de l'action en nullité de brevet.

Cette dernière disposition surprend car elle a été introduite dans un cavalier législatif. L'article L 615-8-1 CPI nouvellement crée ne concerne pas l'accord sur la JUB en tant que tel, et prévoit l'imprescriptibilité de l'action en nullité pour tous les brevets : européens, européens à effet unitaire et français.

Cette disposition retient d'autant plus l'attention que des débats ont agité la doctrine et la jurisprudence sur l'application même de la prescription quinquennale de droit commun à l'action en nullité de brevet et le point de départ de cette prescription. Jusqu'à présent,le tribunal de grande instance et la cour d'appel de Paris ont appliqué cette prescription de l'article 2224 du code civil et retenu une application "in concreto" de ce point de départ2.

Bien que indique les dispositions de l'ordonnance comme déjà en vigueur3, elles entreront en vigueur, avec leurs conditions d'application par un décret, encore à paraître.

On notera, qu'en ce qui concerne le nouvel article L 615-8-1 CPI, l'ordonnance ne changera rien aux prescriptions déjà acquises.

A retenir :

- une ordonnance du 9 mai 2018 prépare l'entrée en vigueur de la JUB et modifie le CPI

- l'ordonnance imposera l'imprescriptibilité des actions en nullité de tous les brevets (pas seulement ceux à effet unitaire)

- le licencié non exclusif pourra, si son contrat le prévoit, engager une action en contrefaçon


1 Ordonnance no 2018-341 du 9 mai 2018 relative au brevet européen à effet unitaire et à la juridiction unifiée du brevet

2 Art 2224 du code civil

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