Patents are granted for innovative products, materials and processes ("inventionsâ€ť). They primarily provide protection against unauthorised imitations, but can also be licensed to others. The patent is a territorial right and is only valid in the country in which it was granted.
A prerequisite for a patent to be granted is that it is directed to a technical invention which is new, inventive and can be put to use commercially.
Patents are valid for a maximum of 20 years from their date of filing. In most countries, renewal fees must be paid regularly to maintain the patent.
Plans, rules and methods for performing mental activities, for games or doing business, as well as programs for computers and reproductions of information are excluded from patent protection. At least in Europe patents cannot be granted for surgical or therapeutic methods of treatment of the human or animal body or for diagnostic methods.