What are patents and what do they protect?

Patents protect technical inventions, for example a product, a process or an apparatus, in all fields of technology. For an invention to qualify for patent protection, it must be novel, involve an inventive step and be industrially applicable. A patent is an exclusive right, meaning the patent owner can decide who can use the patented invention and how, and prevent third parties from exploiting it commercially. In return, the owner has to fully disclose the invention when applying for the patent. Patent applications and granted patents are published, which makes them a prime source of technical information.