A patent is a grant by the United States government to an inventor of the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling a particular invention throughout the United States. The granting of a patent in the United States does not give the owner patent rights in any other foreign country. Foreign patent rights are obtained by securing a patent in that particular foreign country.

It should be noted that the right which is given by the government is not the right to make, use or sell, but rather a negative right to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention. A patent can be granted on any article, or any device that is new and useful or an improvement on any such device, or a new and useful process (including computer software). In some circumstances, a patent may be granted on a microorganism or a new plant.