How can I get protection of my invention?

There are three ways in which inventions can be protected. However, it should be noted that this is a fairly specialised field. When lodging a complete specification (see par. b below) for the registration of a patent, the assistance of a patent attorney will definitely be required.

a) Complete the prescribed forms  for the provisional patent application. This will give you protection for 12 months.

b) Complete the forms to complete specification, attaching drawings where applicable. This will give you protection for 20 years, subject to payment of renewal fees.

c) Apply for an international patent protection designating South Africa and any other member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in terms of the PCT system.

How do I know my invention is original and not known elsewhere in the world?

A search on the patent databases available on the internet could be done either by you or by a patent attorney. To be new, the invention must be not known or used anywhere in the world.

A patent is only protected where it is filed, e.g. in the country in which it was registered. However, international agreements allow protection in more than one country, e.g. the European Convention.

If you wish to apply for a patent in a foreign country, the Paris convention, of which SA is a member, allows an applicant to claim priority on the ground of the first patent application for the same invention, if the subsequent application in the foreign country was filed within 12 months after the application date of the first one.

If you file abroad - the Patent attorney or an International Search Office should do a search.

Do I need assistance to file a patent?

You may file on your own or the office may assist you if you wish to file a provisional patent application. To file a complete patent application you are required by the law to be assisted by a patent attorney.

I saw an object in a certain country - but it is not available or known in South Africa. Can I file a patent in South Africa?

In terms of the SA Patent Act, there is a requirement for absolute novelty i.e. the invention must be not known or used anywhere in the world. However, there are some countries where the novelty requirement is restricted to the so-called relative novelty, e.g. not known for the last 50 years, but a prior use is not destroying the novelty.

What is the life span of the patent?

20 years, subject to the payment of annual fees.

Can I get protection if I invent something new but dependent on the old one?

There is a provision for registration of a patent of addition, if it is an improvement of your own invention and the protection will be granted for the unexpired period of the main patent. If it is an improvement of somebody else's invention, you can obtain a dependent patent, as far as that improvement is patentable.

Can I protect anything if it meets the requirements?

Generally, you can patent anything which meets the requirements of an invention provided it is not contrary to the law, good morals and the natural laws.

What is a patent specification?

It is a description of an invention and contains also claims and / or drawings.

Do I need assistance for a complete specification?

Yes.  The law requires that a patent attorney signs a complete specification.

How much does it cost to renew a patent?

The first renewal fee is R130. The amount increases, as the patent gets older.

If my provisional patent can not be finalised in the prescribed one year, how can I extend the time?

Apply on the prescribed form P4  (maximum of three months). This is not acknowledged abroad, but only applies to the South African patent.

If a provisional patent is not finalised within the prescribed period, may I apply for a new application on the same invention?

Yes, on condition that the invention is still new and not presented or made public to anyone, or the media.

What happens if a person is using your invention for his or her own benefit?

One may inform the person in writing that he is infringing on your invention. One can not sue a person while it is a provisional application. Only nine months after the granting of a complete patent can one institute action. The infringement action may include a claim for an interdict, delivery up of things involving infringement and damages.

How can I obtain a world-patent?

A world patent does not exist. You may file separate applications in all the countries or file a PCT application  designating countries in which you seek protection.

Can I sell my patent application?

Yes, the change of ownership should be recorded in the Patents Office within six months.

Can I license my patent?


What happens if I am liquidated?

Your patent will be attached like any other property.

If there is only one inventor, will two or more names be allowed as applicants?

Yes, you may apply for more than one name as an applicant. Even a company's name may be used but the inventor should submit an assignment of invention to indicate that he has granted permission to those applicants.

How do I pay for my registration? Is cash or cheque payments accepted?

You have to register as a customer via the CIPC website or if you need assistance, you may come to register at the CIPC offices.

May a complete patent application be filed by an applicant - and not by a patent attorney?

Yes, but on condition that a patent attorney signs the specification indicating his capacity.

How can I restore a lapsed patent?

File a request by the way of notice of motion, accompanied by an affidavit explaining the reasons why the patent lapsed. You should state that it was never your intention to allow the invention to lapse. You should also have applied for the restoration without undue delay.

When do you have to consult an attorney?

If you wish to file a complete patent application and with regard to eventual amendments if you wish to file abroad. You may ask an attorney to conduct a patent search, such as a novelty search, state-of-the-art search or infringement search etc.

May I file a complete patent application without filing a provisional patent application?

Yes, you may, but you will deprive yourself of time to do market research to determine whether your patent is viable and then proceed to registration.

What is the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)?

The Patent Cooperation Treaty is a treaty which allows an individual / resident of the member states of that treaty to lodge an application in one office (Receiving Office) and 31 months thereafter the applicant may enter the PCT National Phase in all countries, members of PCT in which he has intention to seek protection.  The PCT application is processed through the International Phase and the National or Regional Phase.

How much does it cost to file a PCT application?

Transmittal fee:  R500.00
Preparation of each Priority:  R200.00
Basic fee:  R 2 620.00

If the application contains more than 30 sheets: R60.00 for each sheet in excess of 30 sheets

Who are the searching authorities and how much do they charge?

Austrian Patent Office:  R1 022.00
Austrian Patent Office:  R3 150.00
European Patent Office:  R6 040.00

NB: Fees may change on a monthly basis by notification given in the PCT Newsletters - PCT Newsletters are available on the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)  website -

Does an applicant need a patent attorney to file this application?

The applicant does not need a Patent Attorney to file a PCT application. However, when the same application enters the national phase, the complete specification must be signed by the patent attorney.

How long does it take for the RO to send the application to WIPO and ISA?

As soon as due payments are made.