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Innovation is at the heart of Groupe SEB’s business. The role of the Group’s Innovation community is to invent new products and concepts and offer our consumers solutions to enhance their everyday lives. The people working in Intellectual Property are a part of this community.

Their work goes beyond the filing of patents, which is essential for validating and protecting technical innovations, and combating counterfeiters, which is essential for defending the Group’s technological assets. For they also play a major role in monitoring technology, allowing the Group to anticipate major technological developments and therefore keep one step ahead of its competitors.


PROTECTING  and asserting the technological progress we make

A good approach towards protecting intellectual property begins with applying the same rules you would like others to respect as well. For each innovation, our Engineers check that none of the technologies used infringes upon the field of application of claims from competitors. In this way, the 1st stage of the product design process starts by looking into the freedom to operate, which confirms to R&D teams whether they have the freedom to use a technology or encourages them to find solutions that work around it. The Group can then file patents arising from its own technical developments and guarantee the exclusivity of its inventions.

In France, there are several different ways of protecting innovations:

  • The “Soleau envelope”, a preliminary patent registration, which puts a date to the invention;
  • Patents filed with the INPI*: “Standard” for products sold, “pioneering” or “anticipatory” resulting from our research work or “improving” for an existing technology. Initially registered in France, the protection of each new invention then needs to be extended to cover other countries;
  • Filing designs, models and brands;

However, sometimes it is wiser to keep the secret as long as the invention cannot be analysed or copied by the competition…

*INPI Institut national de la propriété industrielle (French Patent Office)

  • 115 patents in 2013
  • 216 “Soleau envelope” preliminary patent registrations
  • 5000 active patents
  • 18th biggest filer of patents in France (INPI*)

COMBATTING corruption

It is not unusual for a successful product to be copied or forged. This is the price you pay for success and the Group makes no compromise when it comes to defending its technological assets. Assisted by teams of dedicated lawyers, the Group takes all the necessary measures to exercise its rights in terms of patents (technologies), models (design) and brands.
Counterfeiting is the pure and simple copying of a product or the fraudulent use of a brand. In both cases, the objective of counterfeiters is to mislead consumers, to the detriment of product quality and consumer safety. The Group has set up a proactive approach towards identifying counterfeit products. Once these have been identified, and most come from China, the Group proceeds to seize and destroy the goods. This approach is simple, low-cost and repeat offences are rare.
Sometimes the copies are more underhand as they result from the use of protected technologies. Once this type of fraudulent use has been proven, long and complex legal proceedings have to be set in motion. These proceedings take place less often but are more costly and yet they are essential as they allow the Group to ensure the technological value of its products is respected and to guarantee the uniqueness of its innovations.

Each year:

  • Around 30 letters of warning
  • 10 in-depth investigations
  • 6 litigation cases followed by seizing and destroying the goods
  • 6 legal disputes

Our live campaign in China:
The Canton Fair, the world’s largest import and export fair, is one of the key trade fairs in China when it comes to uncovering “fraudulent” goods for export worldwide: 2 fairs per year, 20,000 exhibitors, 200,000 buyers from more than 210 countries and all Chinese production intended for export.
Working on site at the fair, Groupe SEB employees, inspectors, lawyers and bailiffs are able to react immediately, confiscating and destroying products and tracing them back to the factories where they were made. The Group makes around 25 interventions of this kind at each fair.