Computer Software

– Articles spread within Books I to III of the Intellectual Property Code (author’s right, the French equivalent of copyright).

Membership in International Conventions

– Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886), revised several times, the last time in Paris 1971.
– Geneva Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1952), revised in Paris 1971.
– WTO’s TRIPS Agreement, since January 1, 1995.

Conditions of Software Protection

Filing: not mandatory, but advisable to give a specific date to the creation.

Right to protection: belongs to the author or his assignee and successors in title.

Employee’s software: if computer software is created by one or several employees in execution of their functions, all economic rights belong to the employer, unless otherwise stipulated. In the public sector, a remuneration supplement proportional to the creation's proceeds is provided.

Foreigners: the same rights as for nationals, for those benefiting from the Geneva Convention, or subject to reciprocity.

Originality: an intellectual creation should be “original” to enjoy the benefit of protection under the Law. Three decisions of the French Supreme Court rendered on March 7, 1986 are in favor of a broad application of the originality requirement to computer software. The French Supreme Court has since repeatedly required proof of an intellectual and personal contribution of the developer of the software that goes beyond the mere implementation of an automatic and binding logic (Cour de cassation, 1ère civ. October 17, 2012, No. 11-21.641) and resulting notably in "creative choices" (Cour d'appel de Paris, June 28, 2019, No. 17/01776).

Effects of Protection

Double protection: computer software falls under the copyright law if its written part (the source code) is the expression of an original work. However, computer software can also fall under the patent law if it is comprised in an invention and if it allows the appropriate technical solution to be found. In that case, the invention, composed of a computer software, will be patentable.

Scope of protection: the functionalities of software as well as the algorithm are not protected by the author’s right (Tribunal of Commerce, Nanterre, February 9, 2007 – see also decision SAS Institute, ECJ, May 2, 2012). 

Duration: the entire life of the author and seventy years after his death.

Assignment: possible, in consideration of a lump sum payment. The author cannot oppose to the adaptation of the software by his assignee, or to the use of the software. The right to maintain the integrity of the software is weaker than the one provided for other types of creations under the copyright law.

Infringement: any temporary or definitive copy except one copy for safeguard; any use not expressly authorized by the author or his successors in title. Evidence may be obtained by seizure of the software (consisting in a description, copy, or seizure of support of the software).