DEFINITION of 'Letters Patent'
A legal instrument that grants the exclusive rights of an invention to an individual or a corporation. A letters patent is granted by the government to an individual, giving him or her the rights to authorship or to a patent for a new invention or discovery. The new invention is required to provide a different way of doing something or a new solution.
BREAKING DOWN 'Letters Patent'
A letters patent is not sealed. It is open for public viewing at the patent and trademark office. The letters patent gives the rights of an invention to a person or entity for a limited period, usually for 20 years. The government may also refer to a patent as a "license" giving its holder rights to the innovative process, design or invention for a certain amount of time.