eSoleau envelope upgrades


The Soleau envelope is a time-stamping mechanism used by the French patent office (INPI) to time-stamp documents with certainty. Initially in the form of a double paper envelope bearing the name of its inventor (Soleau), the Soleau envelope is now a fully electronic deposit (eSoleau). The deposit is stored by INPI for a period chosen by the applicant and not published or otherwise disclosed. It is conserved on secure servers of the INPI and destroyed once the conservation period is over.

The filing of a eSoleau envelope can be used to time-stamp a software. In most countries in EU, such as France, works of art are indeed usually protected under author's right and are protected from their mere creation, as soon as they are created. In this sense, a time-stamping filing by an eSoleau envelope deposit can be done to assert a creation date for the software.

The filing of a eSoleau envelope may also be useful, when the applicant is a company, to constitute a personal right of ownership on the French territory, enabling it to secure the right to work the invention in France, in the event that a patent application for the same invention is filed in France by a third party between the filing of the eSoleau envelope and the filing of the patent application. It then constitutes a prior personal possession on the French territory that can be opposed to a French patent with an earliest priority date posterior to the eSoleau envelope filing.

As from 08/04/2024, the INPI has upgraded the eSoleau system. From now on, the INPI will preserve the eSoleau deposit for 5 years. The period of conservation of the deposit can be extended upon filing or during the period of conservation initially chosen. The periods of conservation are 5, 10, 15 and 20 years (as opposed to a maximum of 10 years previously). During filing, a hash key is created for the deposit, which can be used even after the conservation period to ascertain the date of documents.

The volume of documents that can be filed has also been increased: it is now possible to download between 1 and 100 files, up to a maximum of 2GB (i.e. a single file of 2GB or a set of files not exceeding 2GB).

It is also now possible to change the owners of the eSoleau envelope deposit directly on the INPI portal.

Finally, in the same way as a deposit with the Agence pour la Protection des Programmes (APP), an escrow system is provided for making the eSoleau deposit available to one or more beneficiaries, subject to conditions defined by the applicant, such as:
- beneficiaries,
- duration of conservation,
- terms of consultation (from a certain date, subject to a predetermined event (bankruptcy or contractual default of the applicant of the eSoleau deposit)).

These conditions may be cumulative. An option allows to determine, at the time of filing, whether the applicant wishes to retain the possibility of invoking the beneficiaries' access to all matters during the period of conservation. The eSoleau deposit remains securely conserved by the INPI until the conditions indicated on the day of filing are met.