A few years back, the INPI (French PTO) tried to develop an electronic filing system for Soleau envelopes.
Soleau envelopes, named after their inventor, are a practical and inexpensive way of ascertaining the date of creations or inventions, although they do not provide any legal protection. Creations or inventions must be carefully described in two identical copies each of them respectively placed in both compartments of the envelope. Once it is sealed and registered before the Office through a once-patented process, one compartment is given to the applicant and the second one is kept by the INPI for a five-year period (renewable once).
To help them develop an electronic filing system for Soleau envelopes, the Office started negotiations with an English firm. But after the negotiations were broken, the INPI discovered that a French company, which appeared to be part of the same group as their former English associate, had a French trademark E-SOLEAU registered together with several e-soleau domain names. In addition, such French company operated a website offering an electronic filing service described as the equivalent of the Soleau envelope.
The INPI filed a lawsuit against said company which has just been concluded by the French civil Supreme Court, on October 23, 2012. The Court confirmed the earlier rulings that found that the French company could not ignore the past negotiations between the INPI and their English counterpart about an “electronic Soleau envelope” and that, when filing the French trademark application E-SOLEAU, their intention was to deprive the INPI of a term necessary to their future activity.
The trademark application was consequently considered fraudulent and cancelled whereas domain names were transferred to the INPI which did not omit to have the trademark registered in their own name.
Now let’s just hope that an official electronic filing system for Soleau envelopes will be ready soon.