How to protect your invention

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If you or your business created something unique, an invention that has commercial potential, you may wish to protect your invention from being stolen. Without protecting an invention, other people or businesses can copy the creation for their own commercial purposes. There are three ways in which inventions can be protected. However, it should be noted that this is a fairly specialised field.

  1. Complete the prescribed forms for the provisional patent application. This will give you protection for 12 months.
  2. Complete the forms to complete specification, attaching drawings where applicable. This will give you protection for 20 years, subject to payment of renewal fees.
  3. 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.

Despite the fact that you may file a provisional patent application on your own or get the office to assist you, it is required by law to have a patent attorney assist you to file a complete patent.

Is my invention unique? How do I find out?

If you’re concerned about the originality of your invention, a search on the patent databases available online could be done either by you or by your patent attorney. To be considered original, the invention must not be known or used anywhere in the world.

  1. It is also important to remember that 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.
  2. 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.
  3. If you file abroad – a patent attorney or an International Search Office should do a search.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Please feel free to contact Brian Kahn for further information or specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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