Audio Transcription of Interview on Classic FM on 26 June 2006; What are Patents?

TONY BLEWITT:

Once again on Classic breakfast we are talking intellectual property. In actual fact we are talking patents today. My guest in the studio is Lance Abramson from Spoor & Fisher, a partner there. Lance, good morning, welcome to Classic FM.

LANCE ABRAMSON:

Morning to you Tony, morning to the listeners.

TONY BLEWITT:

Now, we are talking about patents. What are patents?

LANCE ABRAMSON:

Well Tony, patents really protect new inventions. An invention could be any new piece of technology, such as a machine, computer software, a chemical compound such as, you know. The AIDS drugs that there has been such a big debate about. What the patent does is, it gives the inventor a twenty year monopoly to derive the sole benefit from their invention, and after that twenty year period then the technology becomes public property and any one can use it.

TONY BLEWITT:

OK, can any invention be patented?

LANCE ABRAMSON:

Well, the two basic criteria are that the invention must be new and inventive, we call it novelty and inventiveness. Novelty means that the invention must be a global first and this is very important. People often phone me and they say they have seen a fantastic product in the USA or Europe and they would like to patent it locally, and that can´t be done so its got to be a global first. In addition, inventiveness means that it can´t be a small or obvious difference in the light of what has been done before so you can´t take something which exists, change it slightly in some small way and then patent that. And in addition to those two basic criteria of novelty and inventiveness there are certain things which are excluded from patentability, such as music or scientific methods - those are excluded in the Patents Act.

TONY BLEWITT:

What is the process to obtain a patent?

LANCE ABRAMSON:

Tony, ultimately to obtain a patent you need to file a patent in each country in which you are interested (or an inventor is interested). So if the inventor is interested in South Africa, Europe and the USA, then they ultimately need to file patents in each of these countries. However, the first step can be done locally by filing what we call a provisional patent application in South Africa and this is recognized world-wide in terms of the Paris Convention for a year. So by filing this local application in South Africa you can obtain one year of provisional global protection.

TONY BLEWITT:

And then at the end of that one year period?

LANCE ABRAMSON:

The inventor either needs to file patents in each country in which they are interested, so in South Africa, the USA and Europe, for example, or they need to file what we call a PCT (Patent Corporation Treaty) application and that extends the life of the provisional for another eighteen months and gets the inventor a good quality search to help them assess their invention. I think the message for the inventors is that although the end steps are fairly complex the first step of filing a provisional patent application is quite simple and straightforward and it allows them to assess their invention and hopefully they have got something which will be commercially successful.

TONY BLEWITT:

Fantastic, Lance Abramson from Spoor & Fisher, a partner there. Thanks for being here. Speak to you next week.

Lance Abramson

Spoor & Fisher

Date published: 2006/06/26
Author: Lance Abramson

Tags: audio transcription classic fm patents