How to Patent an idea in South Africa and abroad

Keep your Idea a SECRET:
It is important to keep your idea a secret because a patent may only be granted for an idea that i new, inventive and useful.  If your idea meets these requirements, generally, it should be eligible for a patent in terms of South African patent law, but once you reveal your idea to the public, or start selling the invention, you may not apply for patent protection.

Search for similar Patents:
South Africa has an “absolute” novelty requirement, which means that similar inventions anywhere in the world will destroy the novelty of your idea, thereby forfeiting your patent rights. It is important to do a patent search before applying for a patent.

File a Provisional Patent Application:
Obtaining a patent is a two-step process that is spaced 12 months apart. The reason for this approach is therefore to give you time to determine the market for your invention, and also to give you time to refine and improve your invention prior to filing a complete patent application.
Important Note: Any modifications that you make to the invention during this time, must also be kept secret until such modifications have been captured in a second provisional patent application or are included in the eventual complete patent application.

Apply for a 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 in each country where you wish to obtain patent protection. The rights you are protecting will date back to the filing date of your South African provisional patent application, and during the initial 12 month patent grace period, your rights are kept open.


Patents are territorial rights which means that patents granted in South Africa can only be enforced in South Africa. You have to file a patent application in each country in which you wish to protect your idea.