A patent is a right that can be provided to inventors for devices, substances, methods or processes.
What can be patented?
A patent protects the owner, enabling them to prevent others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without permission for the duration of the patent.
Patents are legally enforceable.
-- from the IPAustralia website.
To find the full-text of a particular patent (or to discover whether a patent exists) various sources are available: