Let me preface this by saying that I am not a lawyer and if you are planning on using ECC in a system you sell, you should hire a lawyer.
There are a number of ECC related patents. However "in all of these cases, it is the implementation technique that is patented, not the prime or representation, and there are alternative, compatible implementation techniques that are not covered by the patents" (src). That said, the patents last 20 years, the implementation techniques that are patented might be freely usable (I say might because I believe there are other legal mechanisms to protect IP) 20 years after the patent was applied for. A very quick survey showed that many of the patents on the Wikipedia page were applied for in the late 80's to late 90's. Thus, by 2020 the currently existing patents should expire.
ECC can presumably be used without infringing on the patents. So, the patents themselves are not necessarily inhibiting widespread use. There are some who would argue that the real reason ECC isn't widely used is due to it's age and the fact that RSA came first. Age lends credibility (the longer it has been around w/o a break the more the community trusts it).