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What is a patent?

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem, for a limited time. Normally a patent lasts for 20 years.

Requirements to be patentable:

1) Novel:

The invention or inventive step is required to be novel in order to be patentable. It is considered novel when when it is different from all previous inventions (called “prior art”) in one or more of its constituent elements.

If an invention is published or placed in the public domain prior to a patent being filed, such invention will no longer be patentable.

Very important: A new use for something that already exists, is not patentable

2) Useful:

An invention is useful if it provides some practical benefit, or helps people complete real world tasks. However, patents may be granted for inventions even if their use is merely humorous, such as a musical condom or a motorized spaghetti fork believe it or not.

To fulfill this requirement, the invention or inventive step must work — at least in theory. Thus, for example, a new approach to manufacturing superconducting materials may qualify for a patent if it has a sound theoretical basis.

3) Non-obvious (surprising and significant development)

An invention is considered nonobvious if someone who is skilled in the particular field of the invention would view it as an unexpected or surprising development.

For example, in August 2013, Future Enterprises invents a portable, high-quality, virtual reality system that can be manufactured for under $100. A virtual reality engineer would most likely find this invention to be truly surprising and unexpected. Even though increased portability of a computer-based technology is always expected in the broad sense, the specific way in which the portability is accomplished by this invention would be a breakthrough in the field, and thus unobvious.

Benefits of patenting:

Like any other intellectual property right, it may be sold, licensed, mortgaged, assigned or transferred, given away, or simply abandoned.

It gives you the right to stop others from manufacturing, using and/or selling your invention in South Africa without your permission.

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