In layman’s terms, what is a patent?

A patent is a type of legal protection that lets the holder exclude all others from using his invention. The idea behind a patent is that the government incentivizes citizens to invent things that provide value to society by granting them certain rights to exclude which in turn allow the inventor to exploit (sell) the invention. On the other hand, if there was no such protection for an inventor and bigger companies could always come in and steal an invention from an inventor without paying him for it, there will be no incentive for the inventor to do all of the intense work and developing that it takes to create a new invention.

An invention in patent terms can be a product, a process or method of doing things, or a machine or manufacture. For an inventor to be granted patent protection, he must prove that the invention is new, useful, and non-obvious. An inventor will send an application to the US Patent and Trademark Office where it will be scrutinized to determine whether a patent will be granted.

If a patent is granted, the inventor will then have the right to exclude others from using, making, or selling the invention. A patent is often referred to as a limited monopoly because it cuts out all competition and allows the inventor the exclusive right to sell the certain invention. Patent rights are considered the strongest of the intellectual property rights and for that reason a patent is generally the hardest of the intellectual property rights to acquire.

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