A patent provides an inventor/owner exclusive rights to an invention for a limited period of time. Many people have the misconception that a patent gives the inventor rights to make, use, and sell the invention. Actually, it does not. A patent provides the right to exclude others from making, using, and selling the invention. This distinction is important.
A patent includes a written description of the invention. One or more drawings are typically provided to assist one’s understanding. Importantly, a patent includes one or more “claims” that define the scope of protection for the invention. In this regard, the claims define the boundaries of the property protected by the patent.
You can patent any new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvements. However, determining the patentability of an invention depends on the “state of the prior art,” which generally is everything that was publicly known or done beforehand. Therefore, any assessment of the patentability of an invention depends on what is known from the prior art. Although not required, some preliminary searching of the prior art can be helpful.
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