Article One, Section Eight of the U-S Constitution specifically gives Congress the power to enact laws regarding patents '...to promote the progress of science and useful arts.' The first patent laws were passed in 17-90 and have been updated regularly since then. A patent's like a deed to a piece of property. It's an official statement that you own the rights to whatever's being patented. The idea behind patents is to allow inventors to profit from their inventions for a limited period by granting them the exclusive rights to the product or process. In order to obtain a patent, you need more than just an idea. A detailed description, drawing, or diagram has to accompany the patent application. While a patent only protects your invention in the U-S, it's possible to file an application for a P-C-T patent. This stands for Patent Cooperation Treaty and is recognized in nearly 90 participating countries. There are three types of patents: utility, design, and plant. A utility patent covers new machines, manufactured articles, and chemical compounds. Design patents are granted for ornamental improvements to existing products and plant patents apply to life forms, whether created through crossbreeding or genetic engineering.