Patent Attorneys Qualification

Intellectual Property
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The Patent Attorneys qualification is a statutory qualification under control of the Patent Examination Board. An Attorney who has this qualification is entitled to register and practice as a Patent Attorney and to Fellowship of the South African Institute of Intellectual Law. Lectures for the Patent Attorneys qualification is presented by members of the SAIIPL during the first semester of each year. The following persons are entitled to attend such lectures:

  • Student members of the Institute who are required to pay a lecture fee each year.
  • Candidates enrolled for the patent examinations, who are not student members of the Institute.
  • Any other person granted permission on application to the Council for the Institute to attend the lectures subject to any conditions which Council may impose on such person. Persons who attend the lectures in terms of this dispensation are not entitled to write the Trade Mark Practitioners examinations.
  • In order to enrol for the Patent Attorneys qualification, a stamped examination entry form must be lodged at the Patent Office Prior to 15th January of the year in which the examinations are to be written.
  • Late entries are accepted until 31st January only on good cause shown.

Only candidates who qualify for the Patent Attorneys qualification in terms of at least one of the following criteria shall be entitled to enrol for the examinations:

  • A candidate in possession of a technical or scientific diploma or degree from a university or Technikon, involving at least a three-year course of study.
  • A candidate in possession of any technical or scientific qualification, which in the opinion of the Board, is sufficient to enable the candidate to meet the requirements of the patent examinations;
  • or any candidate who has adequate practical experience in a technical or scientific field, which in the opinion of the Board, is sufficient to enable the candidate to meet the requirements of the patent examinations.
  • A candidate who fails to pass or obtain an exemption from all of the subjects in Group 2 of regulation 9 within a period of four calendar years after first enrolling for any Group 2 subject or, in the case of a candidate who first enrolled for any Group 2 subject before the publication of these regulations, within such further period as the Board may determine, shall not be allowed to enrol for any further examination of the Board except with the permission of the Board.

Except with the permission of the Board, no candidate shall be allowed to enrol for more than four subjects in any one year. Except where the Board otherwise permits, a candidate shall have passed, or been exempted from all the subjects in Group 1 of regulation 9 before the candidate may enrol for subjects (e), (f) and (g) in regulation 9. 


Patent Attorneys qualification candidates will be required to have a certain level of competence in interpretation of drawings. Candidates who are not exempt will be required to attend a one-day workshop run by the course convenor of this subject. There will be no formal written examination for interpretation of drawings. At the end of the one-day workshop the convenor will test the level of competence of the candidate through a practical exercise. The course convenor may prescribe additional practical exercises for any candidate who is found, at the end of the one-day workshop, not to have the required level of competence. After the completion of such additional practical exercises, the candidate’s ability can again be tested by the convenor.

Candidates will be introduced to the different forms of Intellectual Property, including trade marks, copyright, selected national and global emerging issues relevant to patent law. This subject will cover a study of the Patents Act 1978 (as amended) and regulations promulgated thereunder.

In the first paper candidates will be provided with a description of no more that two inventions and will be required to identify the inventive feature(s) of each invention and draft a first claim for each invention. In the second paper candidates will be required to draft a South African patent specification in respect of an invention described to them. Candidates will be set practical legal problems on the interpretation of patent specifications, the infringement of patents, the amendment of patents, the validity of patents, the ownership of inventions; and will be required to draft appropriate pleadings and give opinions. Candidates will be examined on their competency to deal with questions of practice under the laws relating to patents in South Africa, for example, the granting of a patent, the revocation of patents, restoration, assignment and licensing (including compulsory licences), infringement of patents, the practice of the Court of the Commissioner of Patents, relevant High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal rules, and application of decided patent cases.


It is strongly recommended that each candidate serve an internship of between three to six months at a patent law firm or a period of three to six months at the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (CIPRO).

Conduct of Examination

The patent exams shall be held around midyear, on such dates as the Chairperson may determine, and the Board may, in its discretion and having regard to, inter alia, the number of candidates, conduct the examinations in any one of four centres, namely, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Durban, Pretoria or such other centre as it may determine. The examination dates shall be made known to the candidates enrolled for the examination at least eight weeks prior to such dates, either by written notification or by publication in the journal or both. The pass mark in each subject for the Patent Attorneys qualification shall be 50%. The following symbols shall be used to reflect the marks awarded to a candidate in each subject:

A: 75% and over
B: 60% – 74%
C: 50% – 59%
F: 49% and under (unless a supplementary examination has been allowed)
S: Supplementary examination allowed

If a candidate has failed an examination in a subject but has obtained at least 45 per cent in that subject, the Board may, after taking into consideration any other examination results of the candidate, allow the candidate to sit for a supplementary examination in that subject;

If a candidate has enrolled for an examination in a particular subject but is prevented from sitting for it by reason of illness, the Board may, upon being provided with an acceptable medical certificate, and after taking into account any other examination results of the candidate, allow the candidate to sit for an aegrotat examination in that subject.

A candidate who has passed a subject or obtained an exemption from a subject, shall retain credit for that subject for a period of five years or for such longer period as the Board may allow. In the event of an candidate not passing or being exempted from every subject provided for by regulation 9 within such period of five years, the Board may, in its discretion, either extend such period or require the candidate to sit for one or more of the subjects again. In exercising its discretion in terms of this regulation, the Board shall consider the general performance of the candidate, as well as changes in the relevant law, practice or syllabus, and any other circumstances, which it may consider relevant.

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