[ANALYSE] French unicorns do not patent

by bold-lichterman

In the current context of the race for innovation, are French unicorns filing for patents? Patent-angels.com, a group of five intellectual property professionals led by Vincent Lorphelin, consultant in use patents and founder of Venture Patents, looked into the issue. And the result is final, our national unicorns are not champions in this area.

To illustrate this reality, patent-angels.com measured the positioning of the three current French unicorns, BlaBlaCar, Vente-privée and Criteo, in the patent world.

2 patents in the target for BlaBlaCar against 90 for IBM

To begin with, here is the methodology explained step by step in order to be able to read the results: the patent databases are classified by CPC (“Cooperative Patent Classification”) categories. We identify the “target” categories that characterize the main innovations of a company and we choose the “core” category as being the most characteristic.

ANALYSE French unicorns do not patent
Credit: patent-angels.com

The core category of Bla Bla Car G01C21 / 3438, for example, is defined in the CPC nomenclature by the following tree structure:

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The Espacenet.com patent database measures the number of patent families * by category **, core and target, and companies are classified according to this number.

* a family of patents groups together all the international extensions of a single invention.
** a patent belonging to several categories is only counted once.

Result: the first table reads as follows:
IBM has 90 patent families in the target categories of carpooling (orange), including 23 in the core category (red).
The top 10 applicants in these categories are, in descending order: IBM, Bosch, Google, Ford, LG, Hyundai, Microsoft, Pioneer, Samsung and Mitsubishi.
The four carpooling operators Uber, Didi, Lyft and Blablacar have each filed between 20 and 2 patents.

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Advertising retargeting: Criteo only has 11 patents against 1525 for Google in the target

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Online event sales: zero patents for Private-Sale

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Conclusion: Neither of the two patent-free BlaBlaCar and Vente-Privée unicorns has developed in the United States. It is not a coincidence. They came up against an impassable wall of industrial property. In a short-lived alliance, American Express, patent holder in event sales, offered Private-Sale to take it short, but at an exorbitant price.

America is more tolerant than Europe in patenting customary inventions, which creates a gap between the two continents, and even a new form of protectionism. These customary inventions, like those of vente-privée and BlaBlaCar, use cutting-edge technological bricks, but the invention lies in the originality of this assembly and not in the technology itself. This is precisely what 80% of French Tech startups offer. We must stop telling them that they are not patentable. On the contrary, we must support and finance them to patent them in the United States.

You can also find the full interview with Vincent Lorphelin, consultant in use patents and founder of Venture Patents, a company that helps start-ups and SMEs to protect their innovations in use thanks to patents, during his transition to The Debrief program broadcast on FrenchWeb.