Patent duration refers to the period in which the patent holder has monopoly rights to their invention, the granting of usage, distribution, and marketing rights to others, and the right to commercial benefit from such for a specific period. Patent duration is normally 20 years from the granting of the patent rights by the South African Patent Office. It should be noted that the patent duration periods may differ from country to country. In the USA for instance, the original period was 14 years, which was later extended to 17 years, and now is 20 years, with the possibility of extension of the duration for another 5 years.
What happens once the patent rights lapse?
After the patent duration of 20 years, the invention becomes public domain and anyone has the right to use it, distribute it and to make profit from it. As such there is a window of opportunity period to commercially benefit from the patent, which is 20 years in duration. The inventor must exploit the invention in this period while having exclusive rights to it. We as intellectual property attorneys assist inventors in registering their patents, assist in patent duration extension applications, international applications, setting up of license agreements, and handling disputes as well as litigation on behalf of clients. We provide advice, conduct novelty searches, and assess the usability and commercial or agricultural usage possibility, and obviousness of an invention. In addition we help to ensure that the description, drawings, and specifications are done correctly.