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For many businesses, a patent is essential to maintaining a competitive edge in the market. Furthermore, patents assist many business owners in securing funding or investment for the product. For these reasons, among many more, thousands of individuals pursue patents every year to protect their idea and/or invention. But what exactly is a patent? What can and cannot be patented? And who issues a patent? These are all critical questions worth exploring when learning what a patent is.

Patent by Definition

A patent by definition is the legal ownership or property right concerning an invention. The patent is issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This does not give anyone the right to make the patented invention or to even distribute it. Rather, a patent’s primary purpose is to exclude others from producing or selling the patented product. A patent is particularly useful for business owners when attempting to enter the market with a new product. If their product is protected under a patent, then the inventor is the sole provider of that product. This gives the inventor a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, patents can and are infringed upon. If a patent is infringed upon (a competitor makes the same product despite not having legal ownership of the property right) the inventor holding the patent can seek legal recourse through the courts.

One disadvantage of filing a patent for a product is that patents are not permanent. When filing a patent one must disclose details of their invention to the public. Therefore when a patent is expired, the inventor has no way of protecting the propriety of his or her product. This is a key component of patents that are important to consider and make some ideas non-suitable for patents.

What Can Be Patented?

But what exactly is eligible for a patent? In order to be eligible for a valid patent, the invention must be unique, not obvious, clearly claimed by the inventor, and described in a comprehensive manner. Inventions that can be patented include a process, the machine, a product of manufacturing, or a type of improvement to one of these things. While these broad criteria cover a number of inventions and processes certain ideas are ineligible for a patent.

Inventions that are not useful, offensive, products of the laws of nature, or abstract cannot be issued a patent. Also, music, artistic works including literary works cannot be patented. Instead, artistic work can be protected by copyright laws.

All in all, patents are a great way to legally protect the ownership of one’s invention. However, patents do come with a cost of disclosing details of the invention. When considering whether to obtain a patent or not the benefits should definitely be weighed against the costs. Also, it is important to conduct your own research to find whether or not an invention even meets the acceptance criteria to be eligible for a patent.

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