17 September 2019Jurisdiction reportsAurélia Marie

France jurisdiction report: In the driving seat

The issue of the spare parts protection by design was discussed during the adoption of the Directive 98/71/EC of the European parliament and in the Council of October 13, 1998 on the legal protection of designs and resulted in a status quo in that member states can change their national legislation only in the direction of liberalisation, ie, a lack of protection of these parts.

In 2014, the Commission proposed an amendment to the directive limiting the protection by designs to original equipment parts and leaving for aftermarket parts, intended for repair, the independent manufacturers the freedom to reproduce them without authorisation of the designs owners. Although this proposal was not adopted, some member states (the UK, Italy, Spain) have nevertheless changed their national laws.

In France, the protection of these component parts as designs is open to any part that meets the legal conditions of protection of designs, including visibility, novelty and individual character, for a total of 25 years. As soon as they meet the condition of originality, these parts can be protected by copyright for a period of 70 years. This lengthy protection was confirmed by the French Supreme Court (Cass. Crim. December 2, 2003 n°02-88459).

The  law that is in discussion adds an exception to those existing to the copyright monopoly. As a result, once the work, namely the component part, has been disclosed, its author cannot prohibit: “the reproduction, use and marketing of parts intended to restore its original appearance to a motor vehicle or trailer ...”. This provision would come into effect on January 1, 2020.

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