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What is a 'Patent'
A patent is a government license that gives the holder exclusive rights to a process, design or new invention for a designated period of time. Applications for patents are usually handled by a government agency. In the United States, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office handles application and documentation.
Most patents are valid for 20 years in America. By granting the right to produce a new product without fear of competition, patents provide incentive for companies or individuals to continue developing innovative new products or services. As an example, pharmaceutical companies spend large sums on research and development, and patents are essential to earning a profit.
How to Apply for a Patent
Before making a formal application, you should research the Patent & Trademark Office's database to see if another person has claimed a patent similar to yours. Your invention must be different from or an improvement upon a previous design to be considered for a patent. Maintain careful records of the design process and the steps you took to create your invention. Enforcing the patent is up to the person or entity that applied for the patent.
In 2016, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office received more than 629,000 applications for patents. The agency granted nearly 326,000 of those applications. Most of the grants, or more than 298,000, were for utility patents.