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The innovation patent system enables applicants and inventors to obtain quick and inexpensive patent protection for their inventions compared with standard patents. This is achieved in two main ways:

  1. For innovation patents, grant occurs without examination, unlike standard patents where examination is a prerequisite for grant. Examination of an innovation patent (and the associated costs) only occurs when initiated by the patentee, third parties or the Commissioner.  However, it should be noted that, in contrast with standard patents, the grant of an innovation patent does not bestow any enforceable rights and privileges upon the patentee.  This only occurs after examination has been carried out and the innovation patent is certified. Thus, even if patentees threaten to enforce their rights before certification, this is considered to be an unjustified threat. Therefore, the role of examination in the patent system is retained.

  2. It is not necessary for an innovation patent to be in respect of an inventive step, as is the case with standard patents. Rather, an innovation patent need only be in respect of an innovative step, in accordance with the Act.

Note: An innovation patent has a maximum term of 8 years, compared with 20 years for a standard patent (and possibly up to 25 years for pharmaceutical patents) and is limited to a maximum of 5 claims, whereas standard patents have no limit.

Processing of Innovation Patents

An innovation patent will potentially go through a number of processing phases. These are, in order of occurrence (except for opposition and re-examination which may be reversed):

  • Filing;
  • Formalities Check;

  • Acceptance;

  • Grant (plus publication);

  • Examination;

  • Certification (plus publication);

  • Opposition;

  • Re-examination; and

  • Ceasing/Expiring. 

Note: Examination should not be commenced until after an application for an innovation patent has been published.  Publication generally follows immediately after acceptance and grant – see Acceptance and Grant.

As examination/certification, opposition and re-examination must be initiated by the patentee, third parties or the Commissioner, a granted innovation patent which ceases will not necessarily have been through all of these phases.

In most situations, acceptance and grant will be practically the same action.  However, the separation of these processing phases allows for those cases where there is a prohibition on the publication of the patent (for security reasons). Thus, these cases can be accepted, but not granted.

Further information on each of the phases listed above is provided in the following parts of this chapter.  See also:

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