A patent is a form of intellectual property that gives its owner the legal right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention for a limited period of years in exchange for publishing an enabling public disclosure of the invention. 

In most countries, patent rights fall under private law and the patent holder must sue someone infringing the patent in order to enforce his or her rights. 

In some industries patents are an essential form of competitive advantage; in others they are irrelevant.

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