A patent is the temporary sole right to an invention. It can happen that someone else makes off with it. The invention must remedy a technical problem and be capable of application in industry. Patent law is codified in the Patents Act 1995 (ROW) and a number of treaties, of which the best known is the European Patents Convention of Munich. More European patent regulations, such as the Community Patents Regulation, are in the making. Of all intellectual property rights, obtaining a patent right is the most difficult because the patent application has to meet a lot of requirements. One of them is novelty. An invention which has already become public in any manner whatsoever is by definition not new. Hence the need to keep an invention secret. In addition, the new elements of the invention used must be novel. Otherwise there is no so-called level of inventiveness or inventive activity. In a nutshell, a patent must be applicable industrially, new and inventive.
The law defines what in any case is not an invention: discoveries, natural science and mathematical methods; artistic design (although copyright may apply there); systems and methods for games and performance of mental work; and computer programs (but this is being strongly lobbied for). The patent holder may exploit his patent exclusively for twenty years. He (or she) has civil and criminal law means at their disposal to enforce their rights. An interim injunction for any infringement backed up by punitive damages is an effective legal course of action to put a stop to direct infringements. The patent holder can also file suit for damages against the infringing party, if the latter is aware of its infringement.