DEFINITION of 'Patent'

A government license that gives the holder exclusive rights to a process, design or new invention for a designated period of time. Applications for patents are usually handled by a government agency. In the U.S. the United States Patent and Trademark Office handles application and documentation.


In the United States most patents are valid for 20 years. By granting the right to produce a new product without fear of competition, patents provide incentive for companies or individuals to continue developing innovative new products or services. For example pharmaceutical companies spend large sums on research and development and patents are essential to earning a profit.

For more information, check out "Who are Apple's (AAPL) main competitors in the tech industry?"

  1. Letters Patent

    A legal instrument that grants the exclusive rights of an invention ...
  2. Proprietary Technology

    A process, tool, system or similar item that is the property ...
  3. Non-Disclosure Agreement - NDA

    A legal contract between two or more parties that signifies a ...
  4. Intangible Asset

    An asset that is not physical in nature. Corporate intellectual ...
  5. Tangible Asset

    Assets that have a physical form. Tangible assets include both ...
  6. Treble Damages

    A law that permits a court to triple the amount of damages awarded ...
Related Articles
  1. Entrepreneurship

    Top 8 Billionaires Living in Japan

    Read about the eight wealthiest people living in Japan, a group of mostly self-made billionaires whose net worths ranges from $21.1 billion to $4.4 billion.
  2. Entrepreneurship

    Top 3 Most Successful Russian Entrepreneurs

    Discover the history of three of Russia's most successful and well-known entrepreneurs, including their educational backgrounds and entrepreneurial efforts.
  3. Active Trading

    The 5 Biggest Canadian Law Firms

    Obtain company information about some of the largest major legal firms that are headquartered and have principal operations in Canada.
  4. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: PowerShares Dynamic Pharmaceuticals

    Learn about the PowerShares Dynamic Pharmaceuticals exchange-traded fund, which specializes on investing in pharmaceutical companies.
  5. Investing Basics

    How Is Google Regulated In The US?

    Learn why Google has been the target of an anti-trust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission as well as a civil penalty for privacy issues.
  6. Investing Basics

    10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Amazon

    Learn some interesting facts about Incorporated, the history behind Amazon's name and the hidden services and technologies that Amazon offers.
  7. Fundamental Analysis

    Great Expectations: Forecasting Sales Growth

    Predicting sales growth can be something of a black art, unless you ask the right questions.
  8. Active Trading

    Competitive Advantage Counts

    What's the best indicator of a company's future success? Its ability to succeed when others fail.
  9. Personal Finance

    Ridiculous Ideas That Made People Millions

    These wacky inventions didn't look like the money machines they became for their creators.
  10. Investing Basics

    Patents Are Assets, So Learn How To Value Them

    Innovation is the key to staying on top. Find out how companies protect their ideas and how to figure out how much they're worth.
  1. What parameters are required for a market to exhibit perfect competition?

    A perfectly competitive market requires homogeneous goods, perfect knowledge, no barriers to entry or exit, and each firm ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is Apple's current mission statement and how does it differ from Steve Job's ...

    Apple's current mission statement is "Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What companies will be hurt the most by Apple's latest product plans?

    As of 2015, Apple's latest product plans pose a challenge to rivals across several industries. These competitors include ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What are the differences between brand name drugs and generic drugs?

    Companies can produce their own version of brand name drugs after the drug's patent has expired; these are referred to as ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What is the difference between a biotechnology company and a pharmaceutical company?

    While biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies both produce medicine, biotechnology companies' medicines have a biological ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How does Tim Cook's vision for Apple differ from that of the late Steve Jobs?

    Before his death in 2011, billionaire tycoon Steve Jobs handed over control of Apple to Tim Cook, then the company's Chief ... Read Full Answer >>
  7. What is the drugs sector?

    The drugs sector is the portion of industry that develops and produces pharmaceuticals. This sector includes both major corporations ... Read Full Answer >>
  8. What are the major differences between a monopoly and an oligopoly?

    A monopoly and an oligopoly are economic market structures where there is imperfect competition in the market. A monopoly ... Read Full Answer >>
  9. Who are Apple's (AAPL) main competitors in the tech industry?

    The range of products and services offered by Apple Inc. (AAPL) is broad, and the company is a fierce competitor in several ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Take A Flier

    The slang term for a decision to invest in highly speculative investments.
  2. Bar Chart

    A style of chart used by some technical analysts, on which, as illustrated below, the top of the vertical line indicates ...
  3. Take A Bath

    A slang term referring to the situation of an investor who has experienced a large loss from an investment or speculative ...
  4. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  5. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  6. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
Trading Center