Myths – protect my idea

People do the strangest things to protect their idea. A few of the steps commonly taken are:

  • Describing your invention in writing and posting the document to yourself by registered post. This is often described as the “poor man’s patent” or a “boere patent”. But, all you end up getting is a document in the post. It does nothing to protect your invention.
  • Taking a photograph of your product and registering it as a trademark. Generally, this similarly gives you … nothing. Rather spend the money registering the name of your product as a trademark. Design registrations are meant to protect its shape.
  • Taking a screenshot of your website and registering it as a design. Yes, this is also a waste of money. Copyright is meant to protect 2D works. Since the screenshot does not comprise a novel 3D article, the design is basically useless.
  • Printing a set of technical drawings of your product, completing the patent forms and lodging the application at CIPC. Without a detailed description of your invention in writing, this application is worthless.
  • Refiling provisional patents with CIPC every 12 months. Since provisional patents only reserve your right to file patents for 12 months, at the time of filing your most recent application, your prior applications become wholly irrelevant. You should file a complete patent by the one-year anniversary of filing your provisional patent. Else, you get nothing.
  • Filing patents for products that exist elsewhere but that are not available / known in South Africa. Since you may only patent features that are “new” worldwide, your South African patent is invalid.
  • Getting people to sign confidentiality undertakings / NDAs in respect of information that is publicly available (i.e. that can be found on the internet). These NDAs will not be enforced by the Courts, as the “confidential information” is not “confidential” / secret. Best recycle these documents.
  • Attempting the SABS to adopt your system / improvement as a “standard”. The SABS will not create a standard that forces the public to use patented technology.
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