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Suppose somebody created the world's first intelligent robot. It can wash your dishes, clean your house, etc. Can that person patent the robot, so that no one else makes intelligent robots? If so, to what extent does a patent apply (can it cover the software, hardware, or overall design of the product)?

Also, do patents stop people from copying your product, or does it allow people to copy as long as they pay you?

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One could certainly patent various new and non-obvious features of such a robot (including, software processes, the hardware architecture and/or the ornamental appearance), but not the abstract idea or concept of such a robot.

A US patent provides the owner with "exclusionary" rights - the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or offering for sale the claimed invention within the US or importing the claimed invention into the US. The mere existence of a patent, of course, is not going to stop people from copying, but if they do, the patent owner can sue to obtain a reasonable royalty or an injunction to enjoin further infringement (assuming the owner is not a non-practicing entity).

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