Information for First Time Patent Clients
The following information is addressed to first time inventors in South Africa. Other laws may apply in other countries.
NOTE: This information is provided as a general framework and cannot replace professional advice. Please consult a legal professional before making any decisions relating to your intellectual property.
The patenting process in South Africa usually starts with the filing of a provisional patent application.
To go ahead with a provisional patent application we need to get full information about your invention and its method of operation, together with sketches or drawings if available. We also need to get the full names and physical addresses of the inventor(s) and the applicant. The applicant may be one or more of the inventor(s) and/or a third party, e.g. a company, to which the inventors will assign their rights.
We usually need approximately two weeks to prepare a draft provisional patent specification. The term “specification” simply means a written description of the invention. Once you have approved the specification our agent in Pretoria lodges it at the Patent Office.
The filing of a provisional patent application gets you a “priority date” for your invention. This enables you to disclose your invention to the public and attempt to market it after the priority date, provided you follow up within 12 months of the priority date by filing of a complete patent application or applications in the countries where you need patent protection. This deadline can be extended for South Africa but not for most of the other countries of the world.
To be patentable in most countries of the world, an invention must meet the standard of “absolute novelty”. This means that the invention must not have been made known to the public in any way prior to the date on which the earliest patent application for the invention was submitted to a Patent Office. You should therefore ensure that the invention is kept strictly confidential until a patent application has actually been put on file at the Patent Office.
NOTE: There are certain limited exceptions to the novelty requirement so it is always recommended that you check with a patent attorney before deciding that an invention cannot be filed.
Inventions must also have an inventive step, i.e. an invention must not be obvious to a person skilled in the art.
Patent novelty searches can be carried out. We can quote for a search if you are interested. Novelty searches are carried out by searching through a number of online patent databases to which we have access. Patent searching involves a classification of the invention according to the International Patent Classification system, followed by an examination of the abstracts of any relevant patents that are located within the applicable classes.
Often our clients choose not to carry out a novelty search but opt instead to file a provisional patent application followed, a year later, by an International Application under the PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty), which includes a novelty search and an examination as part of the prosecution procedure.
Please feel free to visit us at our branch office in Camperdown, KwaZulu-Natal, for a preliminary consultation. Alternatively, if you are based in the Durban or Pietermaritzburg area we can travel to your premises if that is more convenient. There is no charge for a first consultation.