Patent vs Trade Secret
Patents were introduced because ideas were being kept secret and passed verblly on to the next generation (and lost if there were problems). It also meant that many people had to re-invent the same thing over again because they weren't passed the secret.
So patents were introduced as an ALTERNATIVE to the TRADE SECRET.
In recompense for everyone knowing the secret, we'd agreed to give a monopoly (really, a gentlemans' agreement) for a limited time.
However, inventors seem to foget this origin and now see patents as THIER RIGHT. No, it isn't. If the patent office decided it didn't like the invention you could always keep it a secret, use NDA's nowadays to keep it secret: they work and are widely used.
Of course, if you can't keep it secret without keeping it unused, you can't do that either. Then again, what is the public getting in return for your idea that they wouldn't have gotten anyway?
a) If it's needed and you decide not to disclose it, someone else will think of it and use it. Nil points for you.
b) If it isn't disclosed and nobody notices its absence, why should we have to pay for it? Nil points for you.
This idea could not have been used as explained here whilst keeping it a secret. *HOW* it achieved the result explained here could be kept a secret, but someone could think of another way of implementing this outcome and this would not be patented (so this inventor would STILL be out of pocket). Because, remember, patents are not about the RESULT but HOW you get there. A mousetrap isn't a patent, but how you MAKE the mousetrap is.
'couse medical patents have helped to muddy the water: they aren't *quite* patenting "a cold remedy" but they have patented "using this chemical to treat this disease" (and getting a patent on ANY implementation of GETTING the chemical, which isn't the HOW) and they are patenting "using this DNA fragment for somethin" (really, "something", not any specific use, just something. They have no idea apart from vague guesses what it could be used for).