A patent is a contract with the government of a country or an international organisation (such as the EPO or PCT), which grants the right to manufacture or market an invention in a territory exclusively, thereby preventing anybody else from producing or marketing it during a maximum period of twenty years. In exchange, the technical details of the invention must be explained and made public and a maintenance rates must be paid periodically throughout the period in which the patent is in force.

Patents only offer protection in the territories it is applied for and as such, anybody is free to explore the invention in the remaining, non-protected territories.

Once twenty years have passed, exclusivity comes to an end and the invention then passes into the public domain. It may therefore be manufactured and marketed by anybody in the territory or territories that were protected as well. Patents cannot protect generic ideas and must always relate to specific technical solutions or rules. However, said technical solutions must be related to products, devices, systems, methods or methods and their uses.

In order for a patent to be granted, it must comply with the requirements of novelty and inventive step.