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Terminology recommendations

(Redirected from Protection)

Pro-software-patent propaganda use a lot of biased terms which make it difficult to think clearly. Rejecting this terminology and replacing it with clear and accurate wording is essential so that the issues and our proposals will be clear to policy makers, our supporters, and our potential supporters.

Note: There are different terminology issues to consider in your legislative proposals or court submissions. These are discussed on the page Choosing words to use in legal proposals.

Words to avoid

Intellectual property

Main article: Let's avoid the term "Intellectual property"

Avoiding this term is very important. It's confusing and vague. This term refers collectively to patents, copyrights, trademarks, geographic designations, and other laws. If you're trying to talk to someone about patent policy, and they're thinking about copyright or trademarks, intelligent discussion is almost impossible.

It also implies that these state-created monopolies are "property". This encourages people to think about the owner of this "property", and leads people to think that loss of this monopoly would be theft of "property". Aside from this bias, the idea of monopolies-as-property is also nonsense. As Bessen & Meurer say in their book Patent Failure, "if you can’t tell the boundaries, then it ain’t property".

  • Instead say:
    • "Patents". If you're talking about patents, just say "patents". There's no need to look for another term.


Do not say that an idea is "protected" by a patent, or that the "protection" lasts 20 years. When a patent exists, product developers are vulnerable and can be attacked at any time. Calling it protection encourages people to only think about it from the patent holder's point of view. Further, patents are used more often aggressively than defensively, so this term is still not accurate even when you limit yourself to looking at them from a patent holder's point of view.

  • Instead say:
    • An idea is covered by a patent
    • Patent restrictions apply to an idea for 20 years
    • Patents are a form of restriction on software development and distribution
    • Patents are a form of protection pox / blight for software


Main article: Technology

The TRIPS agreement requires patents to be available "in all fields of technology". This terminology issue is very important in legal documents, but we should also be careful about it in general discussion. If we say that software is "technical", then it becomes harder for politicians to understand that software is not a field of technology.

  • Instead say:
    • Software is complex. This is a suitable replacement for almost all situations.


Main article: FRAND

FRAND terms almost always discriminate against Free Software developers.

  • Instead say:
    • "Licence terms". If you want to talk about the licence terms, call it a licence. There's usually no need to start the discussion by saying that the terms are fair or reasonable or non-discriminatory.
    • "Uniform fee only". This is OK, but it doesn't explain the problems caused by the required fees.

Related pages on ESP Wiki

External links

Note: The following link is not about software patents but is a great example of how to analyse terminology: