How can I protect my business idea in France?

The different ways to protect your business idea

You might have a brand-new idea for a business that’s sure to be successful, but you aren’t ready to create your business yet. Well, if you want to protect your idea, there’s just one little thing you should know: it‘s impossible!
However, what you CAN do is to protect the form in which your idea is expressed: invention, brand, literary or artistic creation, design, etc.
For example: let’s say you wanted to offer private tutoring on the internet using skype. Nothing can prevent another professional from taking this idea and creating a competing website. However, if you found a completely new method, or if you created a new name to define the concept, it will be possible to protect them under trademark law.


As such, generally speaking, it’s always a good idea to establish evidence that you are the origin of this new idea, especially when:

  • You have to share this idea with third parties or potential funders
  • It is an artistic or literary creation, so that copyright laws can be enforced
  • When you don’t want to divulge a trade secret when filing the patent
  • When you want to exercise the right to use an invention despite a patent from a third party
  • Or finally, when you want to be able to attack a third-party that claims ownership of the invention

If you want to do this, several options are available to you:


The “Enveloppe Soleau”:

This allows you to easily create proof of the date the idea was created on. If you want to go for the paper form, you need to order one on the website of the INPI (National institute of Industrial Property). The way it works is simple: You put one copy or recreation of your idea in each of the two compartments of the envelope, and you fold and seal the compartments, and you send both of them back to the INPI.   The INPI will then open one of the compartments, register it, and keep it for 5 years; the other compartment being sent back to you. That way, it can be offered as evidence in court if necessary.

Thankfully, all of this process can also be done online quickly and safely, with the e-soleau service.

This has a fee, of course, but it’s only 15€ for 5 renewable years.


Submitting a document describing the idea to the SGDL (Société des gens de lettres)

It’s simpler, but it costs 45€ for 4 renewable years.


Having a bailiff report or a notary deed done

The cost varies, depending on the service provider. However, it lasts for an unlimited amount of time.


Using an online filing service

Here are the main national websites:

– Cleo SGDL
– Copyrightfrance
– Concept Depot
– eAuthor
– e-safe