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What exactly is a patent? While most everyone knows that a patent protects one’s rights to an invention, very few people understand what a patent actually is, or what a patent does. A U.S. patent is an intellectual property right granted for a limited time by the government of the United States in exchange for public disclosure of an invention. It is the right “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the U.S.”