This is a quick review of the possibilities offered by the French legal system to fight with reference in particular to fighting patent infringement.
Patent litigation fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Paris Court System. Arbitration through an arbitration board is however not precluded.
- Cases in the first instance are heard by the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, roughly corresponding to a US District Court. The Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris (or Paris District Court) has exclusive jurisdiction whether an action concerns patent matters only or patent and related unfair competition. This rule of exclusivity has been introduced to give this Court a greater degree of experience in patent matters thereby allowing the parties to benefit from the greater experience and higher degree of specialization in the field concerned.
- The second level: the Cour d’Appel de Paris is the Appeal Court to which appeals against first instance rulings of the Paris District Court are brought. An appeal must be filed within 1 month from service of a first instance ruling. For parties residing abroad, this time limit is extended by an additional two months.
- The Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation).
District Courts and Appeal Courts deal with all cases of fact and of law.
The Cour de Cassation deals with Appeals against Appeal Court decisions. It cannot be compared to Supreme Courts in some other jurisdictions as its function is to only rule on correct application of the law and not on the facts that gave rise to a decision under review. It considers the facts of the case to be as they stand which in reality limits its role. Where necessary, it can look at the correct application of the criteria for patentability.
If it does overrule a decision on the basis of misapplication of the law, the case is re-submitted but this time to a different Court of Appeal. If the second Appeal Court does not uphold the Cour de Cassation’s decision, and if the nature of the questions raised warrants it, the case may be submitted to a plenary session of the Cour de Cassation.