Lack of skills will hobble patent system
South African companies are not familiar with the search-and-examine process and will need time and resources to get it right
The long-awaited draft intellectual property policy from the Department of Trade and Industry contains several key reforms, including the introduction of a substantive search-and-examination system for patent applications. The department considers this shift from the current depository system to be necessary if it is to grant more robust patents. A criticism of the depository system has been that it encourages frivolous patents and allows weak patents to be issued. Any move towards a substantive search-and-examination system is a fine idea in principle, but several hurdles will need to be overcome. A major constraint is the lack of professionals with the skills to handle a more intensive and extensive system. Louis Harms, retired judge and now professor of intellectual property law at the University of Pretoria, doubts that this could work in SA. "[SA] had an examination system in 1952, but had to abolish it in 1978 because we never had people to do [the job]. It’s highly specialise...