South Africa has a depository patent filing system. South African patent applications are not subjected to substantive examination. As a result, the cost of obtaining a granted patent in South Africa is relatively low and no examination or final grant fees are payable. South Africa is a member of the Paris Convention and the PCT. The deadline for filing PCT national phase applications is 31 months from the earliest priority date. The South African Registrar of Patents has discretion to extend the national phase entry deadline by 3 months on request.

If you have invented a new product, process or method then you may be able to obtain patent protection for your invention. It is crucial, however, that you keep your invention secret until you have filed a patent application.

What is a patent?

A patent is a limited monopoly granted by the state to an inventor, or other person entitled to the invention, in exchange for a full disclosure of the invention to the public. This monopoly entitles the patent holder to prevent others from using the invention in any practical manner for the duration of the patent, so that only the patent holder enjoys any profit or advantage that the invention affords for the period. After expiry of the period members of the public are free to use the invention.

Is my invention patentable?

To be patentable in South Africa an invention must be new, inventive and useful.

“New” means that the invention has not been made available to the public anywhere in the world – by word of mouth, by use, in any printed publication, or in any other way – before a first application is made for a patent. It is difficult to establish whether an invention is in fact new, but novelty may be assessed by carrying out searches through existing printed publications that include previously published patent specifications.

Key members

Rowan Joseph
One of the leading patent litigators in South Africa with extensive experience in life sciences a...
Izaan van der Merwe
A patent attorney specialising in intellectual property litigation and plant breeders’ rights.
Ralph van Niekerk
An experienced patent attorney with an aptitude for complex patent prosecution and commercial IP ...