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Patents are legal documents, but they capture and preserve rights to important engineering ideas. For this reason, they are very important to the corporations and research institutions that employ engineers. And as a result, it is pretty difficult for a good engineer to avoid getting involved in the patenting process at some point in his career. Or if you happen to be a company owner or senior manager, you will also find patents are going to enter your day-to-day workflow from time to time. Hopefully, not too often, but when they do, you need to know what they mean.