For most of our clients who are considering international patent protection, South Africa is not the first country which comes to mind. However, we would suggest that the country should be considered seriously by all patentees, due to its potential as a location for business and the highly cost-effective nature of the South African patent system.
Why South Africa?
South Africa has the second largest economy in Africa, with well-developed industry and a growing middle class. The legal system is considered to be one of the best in the continent, and IP law is well developed. South Africa has several major container ports, including Durban, the largest in Africa. South African patent protection can thus allow rights holders to effectively prevent importation into or exportation from other territories in Sub-Saharan Africa with less well developed legal systems. The United Kingdom is currently an important trade partner of South Africa, and British goods with a value of $3.4 billion were exported to South Africa in 2014.
It is also important to consider, as with all IP rights in developing countries, potential economic growth and market development over the lifetime of the patent right.
The South African Patent System
Registration of a patent in South Africa for the international rights holder is simple and does not involve unpredictable prosecution costs. A normal South African application must be filed within twelve months of an application in another territory in order to claim priority. South Africa is also a party to the Patent Convention Treaty (PCT), so applications can be filed in the national phase of an international PCT application.
The application then can be kept pending while other corresponding applications are prosecuted internationally. On the grant of a corresponding patent in another territory, the South African application can then be updated to provide the same scope of protection, to help ensure its validity. The patent application will then be accepted.
The cost for filing a South African patent application is low compared to most other territories, and there are few costs associated with prosecution. It is also inexpensive to keep a South African right in force by payment of the necessary renewal fees. This contrasts with the high IP costs typically encountered in other African territories.
Therefore, we would recommend South African patent protection as a simple way of broadening an international patent portfolio, as well as the one of the most cost-effective strategies for achieving patent protection in Africa.
Please contact Albright IP should you require any advice or assistance regarding obtaining patent protection in South Africa. If you are interested in broadening the scope of your international patent protection, you may also be interested in patent protection in Hong Kong.