A Handbook of Contemporary Research
Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Christophe Geiger
Chapter 16: The French case: comparison of the past, present and future of criminal law
In a highly developed technological society, ‘the knowledge society’, ideas and new technologies are the most valuable assets. Their possession is a condition of economic success. Because of their high value, intangible assets are exposed to the risk of theft, namely here the risk of infringement. The infringer wants to use the results of a successful innovation without having to pay a price for it. Whereas free competition is favourable to the consumer’s interests, the unfair competitor causes damage to the innovator and to the public. The law must adapt to this situation, and the French legislator, as others, has enacted statutes designated to fight counterfeiting of intellectual property rights. An effective fight against infringement should allow not only sufficient compensation of the loss suffered by the right holder, but also include a sanction designed to punish for the past and to dissuade for the future. From this point of view, criminal sanctions have been used in many European countries. From the beginning, the French statutes provided for criminal sanctions for infringement. An overview of the evolution of this system in the past, present and future shows an ocean of criminal law, at least on paper, if not in reality.