A patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention.
The definition of patent usually refers to an exclusive right granted to anyone who invents any new, useful, and non-obvious process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, and claims that right in a formal patent application. The additional qualification utility patent is used in the United States to distinguish it from other types of patents (e.g. design patents). Examples of particular species of patents for inventions include biological patents, business method patents, chemical patents and software patents.
There are different options for protecting your invention with a patent. Patents are territorial. A national patent is enforceable only in your country and you will need to apply for foreign patents, should you require protection in other countries. The call for foreign patents depends on what type of invention you have made, potential export markets and whether you intend to retain or sell the patent.
If the invention is intended mainly for the national market, a national patent may suffice. Be aware then, that anyone may manufacture, sell or use your invention abroad.
One alternative is to invest in an International or European application directly bypassing a National application route. This may be advantageous if, for example, you are certain that the main market of your invention is not domestic. An international application can result in protection in about 140 countries. Using a European application you can obtain protection in just over thirty countries in Europe. Another option is to file separate patent applications directly to the individual countries where you want a patent. This route is good if you know that your market is to be found in certain countries. Nevertheless, it is advisable to compare the total cost with that of an international application.