A patent grants exclusive rights to an inventor for a fixed period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of that invention. A patent is an exclusionary right which gives the owner the right to exclude others from making use of or infringing the patent in any way. However, that does not necessarily give the owner of the patented invention the right to patent exploitation. There are critics of patents, and this has resulted in the formation of groups who oppose patents in general, or specific types of patents. One criticism that is often heard is that a patent only gives a negative right to its owner, allowing him to prevent competitors from using or exploiting his inventions. A patent is looked upon as any other type of property, and so it may be disposed of like any other property right – it may be sold, licensed, mortgaged, assigned or transferred, given away, or simply abandoned.
A patent may be sold by the inventor to another party, or it may be licensed for other people’s use with a license agreement. In such an agreement the holder of the patent holds on to all rights of ownership and the licensee has the right to use or exploit the invention in return for paying a fee. Eligible patent protection is governed by the Patents Act of 1978, which governs Patent Law in South Africa. When a patent is granted, it provides the patentee with the exclusive right to stop all others from exploiting the invention for the life of the patent, which in South Africa is 20 years from the date of the first patent application being filed. (I think maybe this should be changed because if a person first files a provisional patent application before the complete patent application then the 20 years doesn’t commence from the date of filing the provisional, although they can claim priority from that date.
All patent rights are territorial, which means that a South African patent is only valid in South Africa. If the inventor wishes to be protected outside South Africa, he or she must apply for patent rights in each of the countries where protection is required. For more information regarding Patent Exploitation, you would be well advised to get in touch with our patent attorneys.