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.
Obtaining a patent is a two-step process that is spaced 12 months apart. The reason for this approach is therefore to give you time to determine the market for your invention, and also to give you time to refine and improve your invention prior to filing a complete patent application.
Important Note: Any modifications that you make to the invention during this time, must also be kept secret until such modifications have been captured in a second provisional patent application or are included in the eventual complete patent application.
Patent Application Number
In South Africa, if a provisional patent application has been filed, the article may be marked with the words “Provisional Patent application number” followed by the patent application number. If a patent has been granted an article may be marked with the words “Patent number” followed by the patent number. It is not permissible to mark an article as above if a patent application has not been filed, or if a patent has not been granted.
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 in each country where you wish to obtain protection. The rights you are protecting will date back to the filing date of your South African provisional patent application, and during the initial 12 month grace period, your rights are kept open. Patents are territorial rights which means that patents granted in South Africa can only be enforced in South Africa. You have to file a patent application in each country in which you wish to protect your idea.