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Change the world

It is wise to Google your idea first, as you may find that someone else has already created a product similar to your idea. If you are an undergraduate student you are not required to disclose your idea to the Innovation Office and you are encouraged to contact the Propella Business Incubator (Nelson Mandela University’s incubator) with your idea. If you are a post-graduate student you must contact the Innovation Office on 041 504 4309 or to discuss your idea with us.

A disclosure is "the action of making new or secret information known" - in other words, discussing your innovation with the Innovation Office. Any information you provide us is treated as confidential. We will use the information to determine which protection (eg Copyright) can be sought for your innovation. To disclose, please schedule a meeting with an Innovation Office staff member on 041 504 4309 or

A public disclosure is any publication that is 1) enabling to a person of ordinary skill in the art, 2) sufficiently accessible, and 3) disclosed under non-confidential (implied or explicit) circumstances. (Includes journal articles (including online publications prior to the journal’s hardcopy release), posters, slide shows, thesis publications, websites, e-mails, verbal presentations, and even funded grant applications (eg the NIH posts the title and abstract online and makes the application available in response to a Freedom of Information request).

In most foreign countries, such a disclosure prior to filing a patent application will forfeit the ability of the University to obtain patent rights and, therefore, foreign patent applications will not be filed.

A patent is a monopoly or an exclusive registered right for a specific period of time (typically 20 years subject to the payment of prescribed renewal fees) in exchange for a full disclosure of the invention to the public.  This disclosure should be sufficient to enable somebody of reasonable competence in the field to put the invention into practice.  The monopoly entitles a patent holder to enforce the patent against others. After expiry of that period of time or earlier lapsing of the patent, the public is free to use the invention.

The full disclosure of the invention to the public is made in a patent specification which includes written claims to stake out the extent of the monopoly claimed.

A patent protects innovations with novel, useful and non-obvious applications.

Patent protection does not prevent publishing. It only requires that the publication be timed so that it doesn't appear in a journal or on the web until it is protected. Publishing an invention allows for its exposure to the scientific community and the public at an early stage, but does not prevent others from using the information for commercial purposes. Patenting an invention, on the other hand, increases the chances of cutting-edge research discoveries being pursued and developed for the benefit of society.
Registered designs protect the shape or outward appearance of an article.
Trade secrets are processes, strategies and items that are 1) secret, 2) valuable because they are secret, and 3) whose owner(s) take reasonable measures to protect the secrecy thereof.
Copyright is the right to prevent others from making, or causing to be made, unauthorized copies or reproductions of the relevant work, performing it in public, and in some cases, letting it or offering it for sale, without the consent of the copyright owner.  Copyright is a statutory right that comes into existence automatically and there is only provision in South Africa for the registration of copyright in a cinematograph film.

Copyright exists in:-
• Literary works: Novels, stories, poetical works, dramatic works, stage directions, cinematograph film scenarios, broadcasting scripts, textbooks, treatises, histories, biographies, essays, articles, encyclopaedia, dictionaries, letters, reports, memoranda, lectures, speeches, sermons, tables and compilations, including tables and compilations of data stored or embodied in a computer or a medium used in conjunction with a computer, etc.
• Musical works (compositions)
• Artistic works: Paintings, drawings, diagrams, photographs, engravings, sculptures, works of craftsmanship, works of architecture, etc.
• Cinematograph films, Sound recordings, Broadcasts, Programme-carrying signals
• Computer programs (software)

The ownership of copyright often vests in the author but in the instance of employees it often vests in the employer, in this instance the University.
Trademarks are marks or insignia associated with products or services as established in business.
Please contact the Innovation Office on 041 504 4309 or to discuss your idea. We will assist you in a) identifying which protection should be sought and b) applying for the relevant protection.