Thursday, November 16, 2006



A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state to a patentee (the inventor or assignee) for a fixed period of time in exchange for the regulated, public disclosure of certain details of a device, method, process or composition of matter (substance) (known as an invention) which is new, inventive, and useful or industrially applicable.

The exclusive right granted to a patentee in most countries is the right to prevent or exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing the claimed invention. The rights given to the patentee do not include the right to make, use, or sell the invention themselves. The patentee may have to comply with other laws and regulations to make use of the claimed invention. So, for example, a pharmaceutical company may obtain a patent on a new drug but will be unable to market the drug without regulatory approval, or an inventor may patent an improvement to a particular type of laser, but be unable to make or sell the new design without a license from the owner of an earlier broader patent covering lasers of that type.

The term patent originates from the Latin word patere which means "to lay open" (i.e. make available for public inspection) and the term letters patent, which originally denoted royal decrees granting exclusive rights to certain individuals or businesses.

A patent provides the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the patented invention for the term of the patent, usually 20 years from the filing date. A patent is, in effect, a limited property right that the government offers to inventors in exchange for their agreement to share the details of their inventions with the public. Like any other property right, it may be sold, licensed, mortgaged, assigned or transferred, given away, or simply abandoned.

In order to obtain a patent, an applicant must provide a written description of his or her invention in sufficient detail for a person skilled in the art to make and use the invention. This written description is provided in what is known as the patent specification, which often is accompanied by figures that show how the invention is made and how it operates. In addition, at the end of the specification, the applicant must provide the patent office with one or more claims that distinctly point out what the applicant regards as his or her invention.

A claim, unlike the body of the specification, is a description designed to provide the public with notice of precisely what the patent owner has a right to exclude others from making, using, or selling. Claims are often analogized to a deed or other instrument that, in the context of real property, sets the metes and bounds of an owner's right to exclude. The claims define what a patent covers or does not cover. A single patent may contain numerous claims, each of which is regarded as a distinct invention.

Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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