Patent Applications in South Africa

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, a patent may be granted for the invention. Read more about Biotech Patents and Software Patents. Patents are time and date sensitive. You have 12 months in which to file a complete patent application based on your South African provisional patent application.

Obtaining a patent is essentially a two-step process, with the two steps being spaced 12 months apart. The reason for this two-step approach to patents is therefore to give you time to determine if there is a market for your invention, and also to give you time to refine your invention into its “perfected” form prior to filing a complete patent application.

Provisional Patent Application (Step 1)
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.

Complete Patent Application (Step 2)
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.

Patent exclusions:
Discovery; Scientific theory; Mathematical method; Literary, Dramatic, Musical or Artistic work; or any Aesthetic creation; Scheme, Rule.
Method for performing a mental act; playing a game, or doing business.
Program code for a computer; or the presentation of information, are not considered an invention and can therefore not be patented.
Inventions that are likely to encourage offensive or immoral behavior 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.

Patent Duration

A South African patent is protected for 20 years from the date of filing, in the case of ordinary patent applications. National phase applications are protected for 20 years from the international filing date. Annual renewal fees are payable from the 3rd year following the date of filing. Lapsed patents are patents that expired because the maintenance fee was not paid in due time. However, lapsed patents can be revived under certain conditions.