Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of patent


  1. An exclusive privilege granted to an inventor to make, use or sale an invention for a set number of years (e.g.. in Canada, 17 years). Normally, no one company can retain a monopoly over a product or service because this is considered to economically harmful to society. But as a financial incentive to potential inventors, the state grants a temporary monopoly to that inventor through the issuance of a patent.

Related terms

Definition of patent


  • (UK) IPA: /ˈpeɪtənt/, SAMPA: /"peIt@nt/ or IPA: /ˈpætənt/, SAMPA: /"p{t@nt/
  • (US) enPR: pătʹənt, IPA: /ˈpætənt/, SAMPA: /"p{t@nt/ or enPR: pātʹənt, IPA: /ˈpeɪtənt/, SAMPA: /"peIt@nt/
  • Audio (UK) [?]


    Short form of Anglo-Norman lettre patente, "open letter" < Latin littera patens.


patent (plural patents)

  1. A declaration issued by a government agency declaring someone the inventor of a new invention and having the privilege of stopping others from making, using or selling the claimed invention; a letter patent.
  2. A specific grant of ownership of a piece of property; a land patent.
  3. Patent leather: a varnished, high-gloss leather typically used for shoes and accessories.


patent (third-person singular simple present patents, present participle patenting, simple past and past participle patented)

  1. To successfully register an invention with a government agency; to secure a letter patent.

Further reading

A patent (play /ˈpætənt/ or /ˈpeɪtənt/) is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention.

The procedure for granting patents, the requirements placed on the patentee, and the extent of the exclusive rights vary widely between countries according to national laws and international agreements. Typically, however, a patent application must include one or more claims defining the invention which must meet the relevant patentability requirements such as novelty and non-obviousness. The exclusive right granted to a patentee in most countries is the right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or distributing the patented invention without permission.[1]

Under the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, patents should be available in WTO member states for any inventions, in all fields of technology,[2] and the term of protection available should be a minimum of twenty years.[3] In many countries, certain subject areas are excluded from patents, such as business methods and computer programs.


The term patent usually refers to an exclusive right granted to anyone who invents any new, useful, and non-obvious process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, and claims that right in a formal patent application. The additional qualification utility patent is used in the United States to distinguish it from other types of patents (e.g. design patents) but should not be confused with utility models granted by other countries. Examples of particular species of patents for inventions include biological patents, business method patents, chemical patents and software patents.

Some other types of intellectual property rights are referred to as patents in some jurisdictions: industrial design rights are called design patents in some jurisdictions (they protect the visual design of objects that are not purely utilitarian), plant breeders' rights are sometimes called plant patents, and utility models or Gebrauchsmuster are sometimes called petty patents or innovation patents. This article relates primarily to the patent for an invention, although so-called petty patents and utility models may also be granted for inventions.

Certain grants made by the monarch in pursuance of the royal prerogative were sometimes called letters patent, which was a government notice to the public of a grant of an exclusive right to ownership and possession. These were often grants of a patent-like monopoly and predate the modern origins of the patent system. For other uses of the term patent see notably land patents, which were land grants by early state governments in the USA, and printing patent, a precursor of modern copyright. These meanings reflect the original meaning of letters patent that had a broader scope than current usage.


  1. "Patents: Frequently Asked Questions". World Intellectual Property Organization. Retrieved 22 February 2009.
  2. Article 27.1. of the TRIPs Agreement.
  3. Article 33 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex fori
2.     landed property
3.     lex situs
4.     respondent
5.     default judgment
6.     tort law
7.     living will
8.     lex causae
9.     law
10.     salacious