A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. The patent provides protection for the owner, which gives him/her the right to exclude others from making, using, exercising, disposing of the invention, offering to dispose, or importing the invention. The protection is granted for a limited period of 20 years.
In terms of the
South African Patents Act, individuals may file their own provisional patent applications. It is however, advisable for applicants to seek the assistance of the patent attorneys.
If a provisional patent application is filed , the strength and scope of protection ultimately obtained will depend on the wording and content of the description of the invention. The Patent Office takes precautions to maintain confidentiality but cannot be held responsible for what occurs outside the office.
Patent attorneys and customers are familiar with the legal requirements and are thus in a position to draft provisional applications to ensure an adequate scope of patent protection.
South Africa is one of 142 countries that is a member of the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT). This Treaty allows an individual to file an international application as well as a national application. The international application will designate countries in which the applicant seeks protection. Extra fees are payable for this type of registration.
The Patent Office cannot accept any responsibility for the loss of rights arising if the invention becomes public and is copied and the provisional applications have not been properly drafted.
A patent can last up to 20
years, provided that it is renewed annually before the expiration of
the third year. It is important to pay an annual renewal fee to keep it in
force. The patent expires after 20 years from the date of application.
Section 25 of the Patent Act,
Act 57 of 1978 deals with this question and is as follows:
25. Patentable inventions
(1) A patent may, subject to the provisions of this section, be granted for any
new invention which involves an inventive step and which is capable of being
used or applied in trade and industry or agriculture.
(2) Anything which consists of:
(a) a discovery;
(b) a scientific theory;
(c) a mathematical method;
(d) a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic or any other aesthetic creation;
(e) a scheme, rule or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business;
(f) a program for a computer; or
(g) the presentation of information
shall not be an invention for the purposes of this Act.
This is a journal published by the Government Printers on a monthly basis, and it contains information on patents, trade marks, designs and copyright in cinematographic films that exist in South Africa. This Patent Journal is obtainable from Government Printers in Pretoria.