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A utility patent may be granted only to someone who invents or discovers any new, useful, and nonobvious process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. In exchange for a sufficiently detailed disclosure of the invention by the inventor, the patent precludes others from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing components of the patented invention.
A utility patent provides for 20 years of protection for the invention from the date the patent application is filed, during which time the patented invention may be licensed, publicly disclosed, and distributed without affecting its legal protection.