Patents protect inventions. 'Invention' is not a defined term, but it can be a product or a process. Patents generally cover products or processes that contain 'new' functional or technical aspects. They are concerned with how things work, how they are made or what they are made of.
A patent gives the holder of the patent the right to stop competition for the invention for a limited period. The right to stop competition exists only in the country for which a patent has been granted; for example, a UK patent will only enable the owner to stop competition in the UK.
Patent rights make it illegal for anyone except the owner or someone with the owner's permission to make, use, import or sell the invention in the country where the patent was granted.
A UK patent can last for up to 20 years, subject to renewal fees being paid.