The best way to protect an idea is to patent it. Start by filing a South African "provisional patent". This won't break the bank and frees you to disclose, develop and market your invention outside of confidentiality undertakings.
A South African provisional patent reserves your right to file patents in most countries of the world. The next step is to file an international / "PCT patent". This must be done within 12 months of filing the provisional patent, and extends your right to register patents in 148 countries for a further 18 months. By 30 months from filing your provisional patent, you must file "national phase patents" in your target countries (suggest South Africa, EU, US, Australia and ARIPO for southern Africa). Following examination (which typically takes between 6 and 24 months), your patent should be registered and annual renewal fees will be payable.
A South African registered patent will prevent others within South Africa from making, importing, selling and using a product that is covered by your patent for up to 20 years.
COST (excl. vat): SA provisional patent R5,950; PCT patent from R24,500; renewal fees from R674.
Protect your brand (mark / logo) by filing a trademark. This will prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark for similar products / services. Your rights can be renewed in perpetuity for periods of 10 years.
COST (excl. vat): SA trademark R3,450; SA registrability search R2,500; renewal fees R1,260.
Register a design to protect the shape of your product. Start by filing a South African design. Then, register the design in other countries (suggest EU and the US) within the next 6 months. Designs typically take about 6 months to become registered, whereafter annual renewal fees will be payable.
A South African registered design will prevent others within South Africa from making, importing, selling and using a copy of your product for up to 15 years.
COST (excl. vat): SA design R4,950; renewal fees from R585.
Software, TV scripts, drawings, printed fabric and written documents are protected by copyright. This is free and does not need to be registered.
Note: copyright merely prevents others from "copying" your work. It does not restrict competitors from re-developing the same work (without copying).
Secret information (e.g. cooking recipes, client lists) is protected by contract only - use our free template confidentiality undertakings.
Note: Once your "secret information" is available to the public, your rights under a confidentiality undertaking become largely unenforceable.
Before patenting your idea, prototype it. This will confirm that your invention works. And, improvements made during this phase can be added to your patent - we guarantee confidentiality and assign all resultant intellectual property to you.
COST (excl. vat): R15,000 for our "package deal", which includes concepts, 3D CAD drawings, a plastic prototype and A1 rendered photorealistic posters.
Before spending any money protecting your invention, conduct an international online patent search. We have developed free software that searches multiple patent database simultaneously.
COST: R3,850 for a professional worldwide online patent search, incl. search report, copies of relevant patents and our opinion on what may be patented.
When licensing or structuring a joint venture, beware of loopholes and tax / exchange control issues. Our patent attorneys have engineering, law and tax degrees and specialize in contracts for technology companies.
Renewals / Annuities / Maintenance fees
Save by using our online international patent renewal system. It also alerts you to new patents that are similar to your patent (for free).