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Patents are twenty-year monopolies on the use of an idea. In some fields, they might encourage production and development of things that are useful for society. In the field of software, they cause great harm to individuals' freedom, to the progress of software, and to the economy.
Understanding patents becomes harder when people talk about "intellectual property" - that term is overly broad and includes laws that have nothing to do with patents, such as trademarks, publishing rights, geographic designations, and copyright. When talking about patents, the sensible term to use is: "patents".
 What is a patent? What aspects do they have?
A patent is a right to exclude others from using the defined idea.
They have a duration, almost always of 20 years.
They have a scope, what acts they restrict with respect to the claimed idea.
They have a breadth, the range of variations that are covered, for the given idea, by the patent.
 Related pages on en.swpat.org
- Software patents
- Why software is different
- What is patentable?
- Do software patents exist in my area?
- Searching for patents
- Reading case law
- Summarising the issue, news.swpat.org, Jan 2010
This wiki is part of the End Software Patents (ESP) campaign (donate). For more information, see: