You’ve invested precious time, money and effort in perfecting your invention; now make sure that you’ve got your intellectual property rights covered. Filing a patent for your invention will help protect it from being copied by others. Briefly, a patent is a certificate which assigns you, the inventor and patentee, exclusive rights to your invention. Read on to find out more about how you register a patent in South Africa.

Where Do I File My Patent?

Patents in South Africa are registered with the South African Patents Office, which is part of the Companies and Intellectual Properties Office (CIPC), based in Pretoria.

How Long Does it Take to Register a Patent?

Registering a patent is a lengthy procedure. It can take from one year to 30 months before your patent is finally registered with the South African Patents Office.

Filing a Provisional Patent

A provisional patent lasts 12 months. This gives you time to assess the commercial worth of your product, and to conduct further research, before a firm commitment is made. A provisional patent may be filed without the assistance of a patent attorney.

  1. Do a national and international patent search to determine if similar patents and inventions exist, and to ensure that your invention is new and novel. This is often referred to as a novelty search. You can conduct an online search of the South African patent files at the CIPC.
  2. Fill out Forms P1, P2 and P6, available from the CIPC website.
  3. If you’re having a patent attorney file your provisional patent for you, also fill out Form P3 (Power of Attorney Form).
  4. Provide detailed descriptions and drawings of your invention.

While your provisional patent offers you protection for a 12-month period while you fine-tune your product and business plan, it doesn’t automatically mature into a patent. To obtain a full patent, you will need to file a ‘complete application’.

Here’s how you go about filing a ‘complete application’:

  1. Employ a patent attorney to assist you – having a patent attorney file your complete application, on your behalf, is compulsory.
  2. Get your patent attorney to conduct a national and international novelty search
  3. Along with your patent attorney, you must complete Forms P1, P2, P3, P7, P8 and P26 – available from the CIPC.
  4. Should you wish to file for international protection under the Patent Co-operation Treaty, replace Form P1 with Form P25.
  5. Provide detailed descriptions and drawings of your invention.
  6. Six months after filing your application, the Patents Office will perform a formal examination of your patent.
  7. If the Patent Office accepts your patent application, your patent will be published in the Patents Journal (a monthly publication detailing all new patents and trademarks in South Africa). Two-three months after publication, you will be issued with a registration certificate.
  8. Your patent is valid for 20 years, providing that you keep up with your annual patent renewal fees.

Filing International Patents

A world patent does not exist, but if you want to make your invention available internationally, file an international application with the Patent Co-operation Treaty’s Receiving Office in Pretoria (as part of your Complete Application to the South African Patents Office). The Patent Co-Operation Treaty streamlines the process of applying for patents in countries which are signatories to the Treaty. You will need a patent attorney to help you with this application.