Each of our directors is a registered patent attorney. We have a strong patent filing and prosecution practice, filing patent applications in South Africa; and in foreign countries, through a network of agents.
In South Africa
Due to our patent litigation experience – much of it on behalf of parties challenging patent rights – we have spent a great deal of time and effort in considering all the ways in which South African patents can be attacked. We use this knowledge for the benefit of our patent-filing clients.
There is currently no examination of South African patent applications before grant. Whilst this means that little expertise is required to secure the grant of a South African patent, it also means that errors and deficiencies in the application are not identified by the patent office in the prosecution process.
Therefore, unless great care is taken by the applicant and the attorney handling the patent application, it is very likely that any patent granted on the application will be invalid.
Whilst many grounds of invalidity may be overcome by amendments, some grounds of invalidity cannot be overcome at all; and, even if it is possible to correct, any ground of invalidity will make the patent unenforceable until the specification is amended, and will probably make it impossible to claim damages for any infringement until amendment.
We therefore strongly advise that any South African patent application should be carefully scrutinised, and amended to avoid any known or reasonably foreseeable grounds of invalidity, before filing the statutory declaration and allowing the application to proceed to grant.
In the rest of Africa
Africa is a hard place to do business, and is often expensive. However, with economic growth languishing in much of the developed world, and with 18 of the 50 countries with the highest GDP growth in 2012 being located in Africa, international businesses seeking growth cannot afford to ignore Africa.
Many South African law firms hold themselves out as “the gateway to Africa”, but even the firms with offices in more than one country still rely on local agents for work in most of Africa.
Over the past 15 years, we have developed relationships with local agents in most African countries – sometimes learning the hard way – and we are well able to assist clients in securing intellectual property rights in most African countries, including all of the major commercial centres.
In the rest of the world
We have secured patents for our clients in most countries of the world, as is apparent from the map here.
In every jurisdiction, patent prosecution is a skilled task, requiring local expertise. It is not a routine, administrative task that should be assigned to the lowest cost service provider; indeed, our experience is that clients who try to cut corners on foreign patent prosecution often end up spending more, and getting less. We continually evaluate agents in foreign countries based on our experience and other information available to us, so as to ensure quality service at reasonable cost to our clients, while maintaining good relationships with our chosen agents.