In order to be granted a patent for an invention, the invention must be described in such detail so that a skilled person in the relevant art can perform it. Since a patent application becomes public after 18 months from the date of filing, the inventive knowledge can form part of the basis for further technological developments by third parties.

A patent is only valid for a limited time. Nowadays, the patent term is 20 years from the date of filing in most countries.

Patents are national rights, i.e. a respective patent application must be filed in each one of the countries in which patent protection is desired. In certain regions, such as Europe, the application process can be centralized.

Thus, a patent is a monopolistic protection of limited duration for the patent proprietor, normally the inventor or the company that has obtained the right to the patent. Furthermore, the patent itself can be assigned, or be the subject of various types of agreements. For instance, the patentee can license the right to use or perform the protected invention.

An invention is a technical solution to a problem. There are many reasons for applying for a patent, but often the most important one is to be alone in the commercial exploitation of the invention and as a result of less competition to be able to gain a better profit from the invention.