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A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state to a person for a fixed period of time in exchange for the regulated, public disclosure of certain details of a device, method, process or composition of matter (substance) (known as an invention) which is new, inventive, and useful or industrially applicable.

Note:   The above text is excerpted from the Wikipedia article "Patent", which has been released under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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December 2, 2015

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updated 12:56 pm ET