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Brevets et information brevet

La propriété industrielle

En agro-biotech

Habituellement, l'innovation et la R&D en agronomie étaient dévolus majoritairement au secteur public (amélioration variétale, etc.). Mais avec l'arrivée et le développement des biotechnologies et des approches moléculaires a changé la donne puisque les universités se sont spécialisées dans les aspects fondamentaux et ont manqué de ressources et d'expertise pour pouvoir passer à l'étape de la commercialisation. (Graff, Gregory D. and Cullen, Susan E. and Bradford, Kent J. and Zilberman, David & Benett, Alan B., The public-private structure of intellectual property ownership in agricultural biotechnology, in 21 Nature Biotechnology, 9, 989-995 (2003))

With the emergence of stronger IP rights in biological innovations, beginning with the 1980 decision in Diamond v. Chakarabarty over patenting microorganisms and later extended to plants and animals, biotechnology startups and established seed and agrochemical companies initiated intensive research efforts, taking a leading role in the development, production and marketing of new biotechnology-based crop varieties.
The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which allowed universities to patent results of research financed by federal monies, and the subsequent proliferation of public-sector offices of technology transfer created new opportunities and outlets for the results of the public sector's molecular biology R&D efforts. […] In plant molecular biology the result has been a proliferation of patenting by both private- and public-sector institutions.
The proliferation of IP rights among multiple owners in agricultural biotechnology appears to have affected the rate and direction of innovation, a result of the so-called intellectual 'anticommons' as has been observed in biomedical research. Concerns have been raised that the confidential terms of license agreements and the multiplicity of patent owners in core technology areas lead to incomplete information about property rights. Negotiations, paperwork and licensing fees make for high transaction costs in obtaining R&D inputs. (, The public-private structure of intellectual property ownership in agricultural biotechnology, op. cit.)

Our institutions have found that the public research sector finds itself increasingly restricted when wishing to develop new crops with the technologies it has itself invented, including so-called “enabling technologies” -the research tools necessary for further experimentation and innovation. In agricultural research, applied research and genetic improvement of crops are derivative processes based on pre-existing plant material, and each incremental improvement now brings with it a number of IP and germplasm constraints that have accumulated in the plant material. When IP rights for agricultural materials and technologies are held by multiple public- and private-sector owners, this fragmentation produces situations where no single institution can provide a commercial partner with a complete set of IP rights to ensure freedom to operate (FTO) with a particular technology. […] A prominent example of the complexity resulting from fragmented technology ownership is “GoldenRice” (pro–vitamin A rice) in which more than 40 patents or contractual obligations associated with material transfer agreements represented potential constraints for commercial development.
And much of this IP has been licensed, often under terms that are confidential but which have likely resulted in greatly restricted access to the underlying technologies. (, Public Sector Collaboration for Agricultural IP Management, in 301 Science, 174-175 (2003))

Les brevets

As a rough rule of thumb, a patent these days reflects on the order of $1 million in R&D investment. […] Four main fields traditionally rely most heavily on patents for intellectual protection: mechanical, electrical, chemical, and thermodynamic. (Porter, Alan L. and Cunningham, Scott W., Tech mining: Exploiting New Technologies for Competitive Advantage, John Wiley & Sons, 2005 p. 215)

Le nombre de brevets en biotechnologies pour l'agriculture croît exponentiellement depuis le début des années 1980. (Graff, Gregory D. and Cullen, Susan E. and Bradford, Kent J. and Zilberman, David & Benett, Alan B., The public-private structure of intellectual property ownership in agricultural biotechnology, op. cit.)

Lacune française/européenne dans le dépot de brevets

What we have discovered is that companies' engineers or sales and marketing staff who where very good in their particular field were often entirely ignorant of patent issues. (, The changing role of patent libraries, in 20 World Patent Information, 99-101 (1998))

L'INPI essaye de lutter contre cet état de fait en organisant chaque année le Prix de l'innovation !! (Clemente, M., The changing role of patent libraries, op. cit.)

Pourquoi breveter ou non ?

Dans les années 1990, les dépenses de R&D des entreprises allemandes ont connu une faible hausse pendant que le nombre de dépôt de brevets était doublé, ce schisme étant encore plus marqué chez les grandes entreprises. Ceci s'explique par la compétition accrue et l'apparition de motivations nouvelles à breveter. Ainsi, en plus de leur objectif principal qui reste la protection de leur innovation et la sécurisation de marchés, les entreprises considèrent désormais les brevets comme un moyen de blocage de leurs concurrents, d'augmenter leur notoriété, d'ouvrir des opportunités d'échange (licensing, investissement…) (ces deux derniers étant encore plus vrais dans le secteur pharma et biotech) et de mesurer leur performance et motivations en interne. Enfin, on note que les grandes entreprises se considèrent au début d'un mouvement de consolidation de leur portefeuille alors que les PME veulent intensifier leur engagement et leur portefeuille, compensant ainsi un écart qui s'était creusé ces dernières années (notamment dans le secteur de la chimie). (Blind, Knut & Edler, Jakob & Frietsch, Rainer & Schmoch, Ulrich, Erfindungen kontra Patente, Frauenhofer - Institut für Systemtechnik und Innovationsforschung, 2003)

[…] patenting has become a multi motive game the dynamic of which is essentially the result of a patent race of the large enterprises. (Blind, Knut & Edler, Jakob & Frietsch, Rainer & Schmoch, Ulrich, Erfindungen kontra Patente, op. cit.)

[…] six mechanisms that a firm can use to protect its R&D investments: patents, secrecy, lead-time, complementary sales and service, complementary sales and service, complementary manufacturing facilities, and know-how. A factor analysis, however, showed that these six methods are used in combination and become three "strategies": complementary capabilities and lead time, patents, and secrecy. Overall, patents proved the least effective method. They were most useful for medical equipment and drugs, proving effective more than half of the time; but even here, other methods were more effective at protecting innovations.
[…] [the] heightened use of secrecy is to be expected in light of firms' concerns about the disclosure of critical information and the ease of inventing around a patent - oft-cited reasons for not patenting. For smaller firms, the cost of litigating a patent dispute is also a major deterrent. And yet, most firms continue to patent. […] there are multiple reasons for patenting. Firms patent their innovations to prevent copying, to block competitors from patenting, to collect license revenue, to strengthen their position in negotiations, to prevent infringement suits unrelated to the patent in question, as measure of technological performance, and to enhance their reputation. (Cohen, Wesley M. and Nelson, Richard R. and Walsh, John P., Protecting Their Intellectual Assets: Appropriability Conditions and Why U.S. Manufacturing Firms Patent (or Not), NBER Working Paper #7552, 2000, http://papers.nber.org/papers/w7552 external link)

Culture américano-japonaise et culture européenne

In contrast to the US and Japanese companies, who have adopted strategic patenting in the 1980s, the European enterprises developed a strategically designed patenting culture only in the mid 1990s and so followed the Japanese and US American models. (Blind, Knut & Edler, Jakob & Frietsch, Rainer & Schmoch, Ulrich, Erfindungen kontra Patente, op. cit.)

L'information brevet

Patent information, although superficially a simple concept, is nevertheless rather complex. In order to provide a baseline  definition against which we can compare respondents‘ definitions, we arbitrarily define patent information as: “.....the information contained in patents, and information about  patents. Patent information is a resource and archive. Patent  information includes technical, commercial, and legal aspects. Patent information allows directed actions to be taken, based on  reasoned decisions.”
The main conclusion that can be drawn from the survey is that most companies  and especially SMEs have no idea what patent information can do for them.  Even attorneys apparently do not see the full potential of patent information.  Even if respondents declare an idea of what patent information is, their definitions usually are limited and extend no further than information on  patents and (patent granting) procedures. Even companies that use patent information seem to use it in a limited way and go no further than extracting  the technical information contained in patents; the extension to a broader sense  of marketing information usually is not made. Companies do not see, therefore, that they can use patent information to monitor competitors and markets. Most companies use marketing information from other sources to do so.
One reason discouraging full use of patent information is that the information is not easily accessible and/or difficult to use. A substantial number of current  users as well as non-users indicate the need for help in accessing patent information. Furthermore a number of them would like to see the EPO develop applications that make patent information easier to use, understand and to be more accessible. This would suggest special attention could be given to such  aspects as user-friendliness, powerful search engines and so on. It is thought, however, the main reason for not using patent information is the low level of  awareness of the existence of patent information and of what can actually be done with patent information. (Doornbos, Rob & Gras, Renske & Toth, Jozsi, Usage Profiles of Patent Information Among Current and Potential Users, European Patent Office, 2003, http://www.european-patent-office.org/news/info/survey2003/epo_user_survey.pdf external link)

patent databases are a virtual Alexandrian Library of information that, when combined with new automated data-mining and visualization tools, make them potent competitive intelligence tools that businesses can use to great advantage (Rivette, Kevin G. and Kline, David, Rembrandts in the Attic: Unlocking the Hidden Value of Patents, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA, 2000 p. 28)

Despite this lack of awareness, most companies express the need for information and indicate that  the use of (more advanced forms of) patent information would be very helpful. This is true for current users as well as nonusers of information. The results suggest, even, that active users of information systems are more aware of information they lack. Almost all companies indicate that they could use more information on innovation and market watch services than is currently the case. After explanations on the utility of patent information, most companies become enthusiastic. The user potential of patent information therefore is quite high. (Doornbos, Rob & Gras, Renske & Toth, Jozsi, Usage Profiles of Patent Information Among Current and Potential Users, op. cit.)

In general we could say that once companies start to use information, they  become aware that they could easily use more information. In using it, also the  companies become aware of the importance of it. In this respect we may consider  information usage as being addictive. It can be deduced that non-users of patent information most probably are not aware of its existence and certainly are not aware that it can be used for more  than ‘looking up’ new inventions. However once they are introduced to patent  information they may begin to use it with increasing enthusiasm. (Doornbos, Rob & Gras, Renske & Toth, Jozsi, Usage Profiles of Patent Information Among Current and Potential Users, op. cit. p. 90)

Environ 40% des entreprises interrogées considèrent que l'information brevet est d'une haute valeur (cela monte à 67% dans les grandes entreprises de plus de 1000 employés) et encore 40% qu'elle est d'une valeur modérée. (Doornbos, Rob & Gras, Renske & Toth, Jozsi, Usage Profiles of Patent Information Among Current and Potential Users, op. cit. p.77)

80% de l’information technologique est contenue dans les brevets. Mieux encore 50 % de  l’information brevet n’existe nulle part ailleurs ! (Guide de l'information brevet, Arist Bretagne and Arist Pays de la Loire, 0, http://www.pi-r2.org/IMG/pdf/guide_sur_l_information_brevet.pdf external link)

On distinguera les sources officielles [de bases de données de brevets], produites par les Offices de Propriété Industrielle, qui se justifient par la mission d’information de ces offices, et celles plus privées, dont la continuation dans le temps est pour le moins fragile, ces bases de données ayant un prix d’entretien. Parmi les premières : l'INPI et son outil Plutarque, l'OEB et son outil Esp@cenet ; parmi les secondes, Questel Orbit, Delphion, Dialog, Derwent, Micropatent… (Arist)

Prise de conscience nécessaire, lacune française/européenne

National patent offices could play an important role in raising awareness and in  making  patent  information  more easily  accessible.  (In most countries the  national patent office is considered a preferred supplier.). (Doornbos, Rob & Gras, Renske & Toth, Jozsi, Usage Profiles of Patent Information Among Current and Potential Users, op. cit.)

Ainsi, en France, il a fallu les antennes régionales et locales de l'INPI, ainsi que des actions nombreuses d'information et de communication aux PME pour que celles-ci découvrent que l'information brevet n'est pas top secret et qu'on peut y accéder facilement. (Clemente, M., The changing role of patent libraries, op. cit.)

cf. Doornbos, Rob & Gras, Renske & Toth, Jozsi, Usage Profiles of Patent Information Among Current and Potential Users, op. cit. qui montre bien p. 5 le fossé énorme entre les États-Unis et le reste du monde.

Internet, démocratisation de l'information brevet

Up to 1990, Internet searching had not matured into a reasonable retrieval instrument for in-depth searching, although a number of papers had been published recommending this. On the other hand, Internet and special Intranet files for self-service retrieval by researchers have become a preferred new feature, removing the burden of the many "trivial" searches from professional patent information specialists. (, A change of paradigms: looking back to the pioneer years of patent information management (1960-1990), in 26 World Patent Information, 41-43 (2004), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wpi.2003.10.017 external link)

The internet has brought a significant change to the landscape of the patent information industry. Whereas other industries have used the internet simply as a communication channel, the patent information industry now relies on the internet as its core distribution channel. (, Patent archives---the silent threat, in 27 World Patent Information, 27-29 (2005), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wpi.2004.10.005 external link)

Patent information should be easily accessible and up-to-date. The preferred  medium for distribution is the Internet. However, the survey results show that  in countries where the innovation-infrastructure is better developed, companies  make more use of conferences, professional organisations and commercial  suppliers to obtain their (patent) information. Therefore, it can be  hypothesised  that these  interfaces  will  fulfil an important role in providing patent  information or in helping companies to find the information they need at some  time in the future, if not now. This suggests a shift in searching procedures from  the Internet to other media  It is therefore suggested not to invest all effort in  the Internet, but to diversify  effort  over  several  different  channels. (Doornbos, Rob & Gras, Renske & Toth, Jozsi, Usage Profiles of Patent Information Among Current and Potential Users, op. cit.)
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