Obtaining a patent in South Africa is essentially a two-step process, with the two steps being spaced 12 months apart. Once a complete patent application has been filed, it is impossible to add additional matter. The reason for this two-step approach to patents is therefore to give you time to improve your invention. Furthermore, any modifications that you make to the invention as contained in the provisional patent specification must be kept secret until such modifications have been captured in a second provisional patent application or are included in the eventual complete patent application.
Step 1 – Provisional Patent Application
The first step is to file a South African provisional patent application for your invention. This is done to obtain the earliest possible date from which to claim rights to your invention – much like an option to protect your invention.
Step 2 – Complete Patent Application
The second step is to file a complete patent application within 12 months of filing the provisional patent application in South Africa, and/or in each country where you wish to obtain patent protection. The complete patent application or applications will claim a first (or “priority”) date from your provisional patent application. In other words, the rights you are protecting date back to the filing date of your South African provisional patent application. During the initial 12 month patent grace period, your rights are kept open.
The patent has a duration of 20 years from the date of filing or the PCT International filing date, with no possible extensions.
Maintenance fees / Renewal fees
Annual maintenance fees are payable from the third anniversary of the filing date or from the PCT International filing date. There is a 6-month grace period to pay the maintenance fees.