Explainer: What is a patent?

Patents protect intellectual property from theft

By Janet Raloff, 12:00 PM March 20, 2013


Credit: istockphoto



The same way it’s against the law to steal someone’s bike or car, it’s also illegal to steal a novel invention. The reason: That invention is also considered property. Lawyers refer to it as “intellectual property.” That means it is something new that never existed until someone thought it up. But the only way to guard that new invention from theft is to promptly patent it.


Governments issue patents. A patent is a document that gives an inventor the right to prevent others from making, usi...

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