So what is a Patent and why is it so important?
A patent is the sole right granted to an inventor by the State for a given length of time in exchange for making the invention known to the public. Application for a patent in South Africa must be made through the CIPC in Pretoria and are only valid in South Africa. Patents must be applied for in whichever other countries the inventor wishes to have protection.
In return for being granted protection, the patent holder has the right to exclude others from exploiting his invention for the life of the patent, this is normally 20 years from when the first application was filed, but only if renewed annually at the South African Intellectual Property Office. In South Africa a patent is legal property, and may be disposed of in the same way as any other property. It may be licensed out for the use of others, or it may be sold, assigned or transferred, mortgaged, given away, or even just abandoned.
Why you need to do a Search
Before going ahead and making an application for a provisional patent, it is advisable to carry out a novelty search to make sure that the invention really is new. This involves a manual search at the Paper Based Disclosure Centre at CIPC in Pretoria and is the body responsible for the granting of patents. It falls under the umbrella of the South African Department of Trade and Industry. Providing that the search has not found any conflicting inventions, an application can be made to CIPC for a provisional patent. In South Africa this is best carried out by an Attorney.
The Application Process
All documents should be typed or printed. It is most important that the description of the specification is comprehensive and clear, and where applicable, drawings must be attached, on A4 pages. A provisional patent lasts for 12 months, and during this time an application for a full patent should be made to the South African Patents Office in Pretoria. Application forms for the full patent must be made out by a South African Patent Attorney. As another option the application may be made with the Patent Co-operation Treaty System (PCT). This allows you to file one international application that offers protection in a number of countries other than South Africa.
The applicant may make this application him/herself, thus affording a substantial saving. After the full patent is granted it must be advertised in the Patent Journal, this being the means of making it public. It is always advisable, when applying for a South African patent to make use of the services of a South African Patent Attorney as they are specifically trained in the knowledge of local Intellectual Property laws.