Patents protect functionality – what something does and how it does it. In this sense, a patent protects the idea behind a new invention (whether it is a “thing” or a way of doing something).

To secure a patent:

  1. the invention must be new and inventive, and
  2. the inventor or patent owner must put the invention on the public record (for the common good). This is done by fully describing the invention in the patent application. There needs to be enough detail for someone in the relevant field to make and use the invention.

In return, the patent owner is given the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling the invention in the country covered by the patent, for the life of the patent. Typically, a patent lasts 20 years.

So, a patent is a very powerful form of intellectual property right that protects the concept or idea behind an invention. However, because it is so powerful, the hurdles to obtaining a patent are set very high.


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