Patent Law in South Africa

The Patent Law in South Africa requires that an invention meets three important conditions: Novelty, Usefulness and Inventiveness. Under the Patent Law the invention must be completely new. As such the patent lawyers will conduct a novelty search in trade magazines, online, through databases, and newspapers around the world to establish whether any reporting was done on the invention prior to filing for patent rights. In addition the Patent Law requires that the invention must not be obvious to someone skilled in the specific subject area and it must be useful. Inventing something that cannot be used in commerce, medicine or for instance agriculture will thus not constitute the right to a patent. The best way to ensure successful filing and granting of a patent is to go through patent attorneys when applying for patent rights.

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.

Patent Exclusions

Inventions which cannot be the subject of a Patent in South Africa

Exclusions as inventions in terms of the South African Patents Act:
Anything which consists of a discovery; a scientific theory; a mathematical method; a literary; dramatic, musical or artistic work; or any aesthetic creation; a scheme, rule, or method for performing a mental act; playing a game, or doing business; a program for a computer; or the presentation of information, are not considered an invention and can therefore not be patented in terms of the South African Patents Act. In certain circumstances you may still consider filing a South African provisional patent application, even though there may be uncertainty about the definition of the invention. The reason for this is that the above exclusions are interpreted restrictively (i.e. they exclude only the listed inventions as such from being patented). Also, this section of the South African Patents Act has not been subject to litigation in such a degree that clear precedents which can be followed have been set in all the above categories. Further, because of an increasing number of patents being granted in other countries for inventions that are excluded in terms of the South African Patents Act (such as software and business methods), a South African provisional patent application may be used to establish priority rights for the invention that may, within 12 months, be prosecuted in other countries where some of these categories of inventions are patentable (such as in the USA and in Europe).

Other inventions for which a South African patent will not be granted:
Inventions that are likely to encourage offensive or immoral behaviour cannot be protected by way of a Patent. Also, inventions which are frivolous and contrary to the known laws of nature, such as perpetual motion machines, are excluded from patentability. Inventions relating to methods of treatment, therapy or diagnosis to be performed on the human or animal body, as such, are not considered patentable, but compounds or compositions for use in such methods may be patented. In addition a patent cannot be granted for products of biological processes which are not essentially microbiological in nature.

More information regarding Patents

Patents – In simple terms, a South African patent may be granted for an invention that is: New, Inventive and Useful. If your invention meets these three requirements, generally, subject to certain exclusions detailed below…

Patent Attorneys – Our Intellectual Property law firm specialises in Patent and PCT National Phase applications in Africa including the following countries: South Africa, Angola, Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, Nigeria, OAPI and ARIPO Contracting states…

Biotech Patents – Research and development in the life sciences is extremely costly and time-consuming. The pharmaceutical industry provides a good example of the time-scales and funding one needs in order to bring…

International Patent Protection – It is important to note that patents are territorial rights – a patent granted in South Africa can be enforced in South Africa only. However, you may, within 12 months…

Software Patents – Historically, software has been protected primarily through the provisions in the South African Copyright Act. Examples of subject matter for copyright protection of computer programs and mobile apps are…

Requirements for Patent Application – 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…

Plant and Animal Sciences – According to the patent laws of several countries, one cannot obtain biotechnological patent protection for plant or animal varieties, or essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals…

Patent Search – It is very important for applicants to do a patent search for similar inventions before applying for protection. A Patent Search will indicate whether your idea or inventions has been patented before. Although novelty can never be determined…

Patent Requirements – Although novelty can never be determined conclusively, an indication of the novelty of your invention may be found by conducting patent and literature searches. South Africa has a so-called…

Patent Costs – A novelty search is conducted prior to filing a Provisional Patent Application to identify potentially novel and/or inventive aspects of an invention in light of what already exists (i.e. the prior art)…

Patent Exclusions –  Anything which consists of a discovery; a scientific theory; a mathematical method; a literary; dramatic, musical or artistic work; or any aesthetic creation; a scheme, rule, or method for performing a mental act…

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