If you have come up with a unique and new invention, you should protect it with a patent. A patent gives you the exclusive right to produce and sell the invention for a certain period of time. A patent is a document that contains a comprehensive description of your invention and how it is protected by the patent. Your invention will be protected from being exploited.

What can be patented in South Africa?

Section 25 of the Patent Act, Act 57 of 1978 defines patentable inventions as any new invention that involves an inventive step and which is capable of being used or applied in trade and industry or agriculture.

Patent Search

South Africa has an absolute novelty requirement, which means that similar inventions anywhere in the world will destroy the novelty of your invention. If similar inventions exist in anywhere in the world it will not be possible to obtain patent protection for the invention in South Africa. Do a patent search to ensure that your invention is genuinely new and that it, or parts of it, does not infringe on anyone else’s patent. You may be disappointed to find that someone else has already registered a similar invention. Search for existing patents before you waste your time and money.

Patent Application

Obtaining a South African patent is a two-step process, with the two steps being spaced 12 months apart.

Step 1 – Provisional Patent Application
To file a South African provisional patent application 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 
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 will claim a first (or “priority”) date from your provisional patent application.

Patent Duration

A South African patent can last up to 20 years and should be renewed annually. It is important to pay an annual renewal fee to keep it in force.