Our client, a privately-owned UK manufacturer that is keen to expand into overseas markets, exhibited its product range at an exhibition in South Africa. It was surprised to receive a fax from a South African company alleging that one of its products was an infringement of a granted South African patent, and demanding that sale of the product in South Africa cease immediately.
As a precaution, the client withdrew the product in question from display at the exhibition and sought our advice. We were able to establish within a few hours that our client’s product had been on the market in the UK more than one year prior to the date on which South African company’s patent application had been filed. We were also able to obtain documentary evidence that could be used to prove that to be the case. We advised our client that the South African patent could not validly cover its product, and if action were taken against it in South Africa they would have a strong defence. We were also able to confirm that the same would apply in Europe and the USA, where the South African company also held patents.
A forthright letter was sent by us to the attorneys representing the South African company, and nothing more has been heard from them. Our client has continued to market its product without any problems arising.