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A patent grants an inventor certain property rights against infringement by others. These rights include preventing others from using, selling, making, importing or offering his or her invention in the United States without the inventor's permission. The Patent and Trademark Office issues the patent, after patent application review, to the inventor for a term of 20 years, which starts on the date the patent application was filed in the United State.

The date may also start at the time a similar application was filed, contingent on payment of the maintenance fees. Patent grants issued in the U.S. are only effective in the United States, United States territories and possessions. However, other countries do offer similar patent protection.

It's important to remember that even if you're issued a patent, if another individual has been issued a patent before you for the same invention, your patent can be contested. You also have the right to contest a patent issued after yours if it infringes on your invention. This procedure, called patent infringement, often must be resolved in a court of law. This can often be avoided by doing a thorough art search prior to patent application..