A patent is a grant of a national right in a particular country to exclude others from commercially utilizing an invention for a limited period of time. The patent system encourages innovation by providing a temporary monopoly in exchange for the full disclosure of inventions. The temporary monopoly granted by a patent can be extraordinarily valuable.
One way to conceptualize a patent is as a contract between the inventor and the government in which the inventor agrees to disclose the invention to the public, and the government agrees to allow the inventor the sole right to exploit the invention for a limited time period.
A patent does not grant the owner a right to use the invention, as actual use of the invention may be illegal, require additional regulatory approval or infringe patents held by third parties.
A patent owner can provide access for third parties to the patented invention by granting a license. The third party will generally pay a royalty in exchange for the right to manufacture, sell, and/or otherwise use the patented invention.
To be patentable, an invention must be useful, novel, non-obviousness and cover patentable subject matter. Complicated nuances exist for all of these requirements, and a skilled attorney is generally required to determine if an invention meets these requirements.
To fulfill the contract with the government, the inventor must disclose the invention sufficiently so as to allow a person or ordinary skill in the subject matter of the invention to practice the invention without undue experimentation. An inventor cannot withhold essential aspects of the invention as trade secrets.
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