Patents are very important. They protect products, designs and even plants that are created by a novel mind or an inventor. But what exactly do patents protect? How does having the government decree that your product, invention or plant is patented protect you, the inventor, from financial losses incurred by copycat companies or individuals?
The right that is granted to you by the government under a patent excludes other people from copying your invention. If they do copy your invention, then you could legally challenge their copycat ways.
But patents aren't a guarantee. In order to obtain a patent, the inventor must prove that he or she has created or designed something that is "novel and nonobvious." These two words have distinct meanings in the world of patents.
An invention is "novel" if it differentiates itself from other similar inventions or products by having different parts, and there also can't be another patent on the books for it (within a year of the patent application); an invention is "nonobvious" if a skilled and experienced individual in the field which applies to the invention would consider the invention an "unexpected or surprising development."
There are many things that can be patented -- from jewelry, to specific designs for furniture, to chemical and computer parts and many, many more. However, the inventor has to apply for a patent. Patents aren't automatic, like a copyright is. If you have an invention or new product that you want to protect with a patent, but you don't know where to begin with the patent process, you should consult with an experienced intellectual property attorney.
Source: FindLaw, "What is a Patent?," Accessed Oct. 2, 2015