How to Patent an Invention
In order to patent an invention it has to be New, Inventive and Useful. This means that the invention has to be useful to agriculture and industry, involve an inventive step and fall within the categories of allowable inventions for South African patent registrations.
The process to patent an invention can be rather complicated and it is recommended that you use a qualified patent attorney that specialize in the field of your invention, such as engineering, scientific, biotechnology or software. These attorneys will be able to assess the inventive step involved, whether the patent is obvious to someone skilled in the art, and to assist with the setting up of specifications, claims, descriptions and supportive drawings. To prevent patent infringement or litigation, the patent attorney will assist with the novelty search of the invention. Absolute novelty is required by the South African Patents Act.
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.
There is no such thing as a single “worldwide” patent.
You have to file a patent application in each country in which you wish to protect your invention. There are, however, option which allow you to keep your rights open in most foreign countries before finally deciding on such countries – please contact us to discuss these options. Through our network of foreign patent agents we can file foreign patent applications in your countries of interest. For more information regarding patent protection in African countries, click here.
- New – Disclosure anywhere in the world before the filing date of a South African patent application will destroy the novelty of your invention, thereby forfeiting your patent rights.
- Useful – Susceptible to industrial application.
- Inventive – Must represent an inventive activity.
Patent Protection Duration
Non-PCT applications – 20 years from the South African filing date.
PCT national phase applications – 20 years from the filing date of the PCT International application.
Renewal fees become payable once the patent is granted. The first renewal fee falls due on the 1st anniversary of the filing date, and subsequent renewal fees are payable annually thereafter. Patents are time and date sensitive.
A 3 month extension period beyond the 12 month deadline is available in South Africa only for filing a South African complete patent application. This is not available in other countries. You may claim patent priority in a foreign patent application from a South African provisional patent application, but only within 12 months from the date of filing such South African provisional patent application.