To register a patent in South Africa is a two-step process, with the two steps being spaced 12 months apart. The reason for this two-step approach to patents is to give you time to determine the market for your invention, and to refine your invention into its “perfected” form prior to filing a complete patent application. 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. Read more about Biotech Patents and Software Patents.
Step 1: 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: 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.
To register a patent in South Africa, the invention has to be new, inventive and useful. If your invention meets these requirements, generally, subject to certain exclusions, a patent may be granted for the invention in terms of South African patent law. A patent search will indicate whether your invention has been patented before. Although novelty can never be determined conclusively, an indication of the novelty of your invention may be found by conducting patent searches on the internet. South Africa has an “absolute” novelty requirement, which means that similar inventions anywhere in the world will destroy the novelty of your invention, thereby forfeiting your patent rights.
Information Required to Register a Patent
Details of the invention: We need a full, detailed technical description of the invention in order to draft a patent specification. If you have a prototype or drawings of your invention, this would also suffice, together with a description of the functions it performs and the distinguishing features of your invention.
Details of the inventors: In terms of the South African Patents Act, we need the full names and residential address of the inventor or inventors that contributed inventively to the invention.
Details of the Patent applicant / Patentee: Patents can be filed in the name of a person, such as the inventor, or a legal entity, such as a company. As such, we need the full names of the patent applicant, or patent applicants and their residential address(es), or if the patent applicant is a legal entity, we need the name of the entity and its registered address.
Details of our client: In terms of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, we need to identify who our client is to register a patent. Therefore, you need to supply us with your full contact details. In this regard, the information needed should comply to the requirements of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act.
Annual Renewal Fees
Patent protection can last up to 20 years, provided it is renewed annually before the expiration of the 3rd year from the date of filing in South Africa. It is important to pay an annual renewal fee to keep the patent in force. The patent will expire after 20 years from the date of application.
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