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The term patent usually refers to a right granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter.

The procedure for granting patents, the requirements placed on the patentee, and the extent of the exclusive rights vary widely between countries according to national laws and international agreements.  Typically, however, a patent application must include one or more claims defining the invention covered.  The invention must be new, non-obvious, and useful, or industrially applicable and not in the public domain.  In many countries, certain subject areas are excluded from patents, such as business methods and mental acts.  The exclusive right granted to a patentee in most countries is the right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or distributing the patented invention without permission.  It is just a right to prevent other people using the patented material.

A patent does not give the proprietor of the patent the right to use the patented invention, should it fall within the scope of an earlier patent.  A patent being an exclusionary right does not necessarily give the owner of the patent the right to exploit the patent.  For example, many inventions are improvements of prior inventions that may still be covered by someone else's patent.  If an inventor takes an existing, patented mouse trap design, adds a new feature to make an improved mouse trap, and obtains a patent on the improvement, he or she can only legally build his or her improved mouse trap with permission from the patent holder of the original mouse trap, assuming the original patent is still in force.  On the other hand, the owner of the improved mouse trap can prevent the original patent owner from using the improved design without consent.


In most countries, both individuals and corporate entities may apply for a patent.  It is normal business practice that if a patentable idea is created by an employee in line with normal employment, then the employer will own the patent.

Length of Patent

If you have been granted a patent, you must renew it every year after the 5th year for up to 20 years protection.

Applying for a Patent

In the United Kingdom a patent application is made through the Intellectual Property Office  It is important to seek appropriate legal advice before submitting a patent application.


It is important, before a patent is applied for, that the inventor does not discuss the idea with anyone unless through a confidentiality agreement.  If discussions are held without such an agreement, the idea may be deemed to be in the public domain and thus unable to be patented.