A patent is a monopoly right in an invention. Patents generally cover how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made from of or how they are made. A patent can cover not only such things as an electronic circuit, a chemical product, heavy machinery or a control system, but also small household items such as a tin-opener. It can also cover processes such as a new or improved process of making a new material or a new method of navigation. In many situations, patents can also cover computer implemented and software-based inventions.
A patent is a right can be used to restrict others from, amongst other things, making, selling, importing or using an invention without permission.
Patents are national rights. A UK patent can generally only be used to restrain commercial activity in the UK. To restrain activity abroad, you must have a patent in the relevant country.