An issued patent prevents others from making, using or selling the invention covered
by the patent in the country in which the patent has issued.  Patents can be granted on
an apparatus, a machine, a product, manufactured goods, a process (a method of steps
to accomplish an objective), ornamental designs, and compositions of matter.  Although
not applicable to our industry, patents can also be granted on certain types of plants.  
Patents cannot be granted on mere ideas, principles of nature, laws of nature, physical
phenomena, abstract ideas, writings, mental steps, mathematics, scientific principles, and
the like.

    Patent protection was one of the important concepts included by the framers of our
country in the Constitution (Article I, Section 8).  The purpose of the patent system is to
induce inventors to make their inventions public rather than exploit their inventions in
secret.  This is accomplished by allowing the inventor or the assignee the right to
exclude all others from benefitting from that invention for a set period of time (which in
the United States is 20 years from the date of application for utility and plant patents
and 14 years from issuance for patents on ornamental designs).  The government grants
this right to exclude others in exchange for the inventor submitting a written disclosure of
the invention in a form having sufficient detail so that a person skilled in that field can
duplicate the invention after the patent expires.