Re: @Wait how long AC
"Nothing wrong with Patents. They're designed to get an idea out in the open rather than keeping it locked away in a company's R&D department's "EXTRA PRIVATE" folders as would otherwise happen."
There are many things wrong with patents. Sure, in their infancy, the idea was to get people to disclose the details of making their "secret sauce" for a temporary monopoly. These days, however, patents don't seem to be limited to the process of making the sauce, they cover the recipe (which is covered by copyright, anyway) and even vague aspects of the sauce, or even the very fact that it's a sauce.
"You or I could go look at the Patent records anytime we liked (well, when the office was open) and have a look at how, say, the multitouch arrangement on the iPhone worked."
This panders to the myth that patents cover superhuman intellectual achievements that not a single person nor any other group would be able to replicate independently without peeking at the patent book and having a "eureka" moment. That's why large companies perpetuate this myth: "we're large and/or smart and are thus the only ones who could have solved such monumental problems". The vast body of experience and evidence suggests otherwise.
"They don't even last forever- so everyone will be able to use the idea free of charge eventually."
So the argument here is that if you keep the lawyers in expensive suits and luxury vehicles, the pace of innovation can be maintained. Otherwise, look forward to Firefox 4 in the year 2217.
"The problem is software patents- they're crap. And not policed anywhere near enough."
The first sentence I do agree with here. The second sentence panders to the myth that the problem can be solved through higher standards and increased regulation. When there is no incentive to regulate patent applications, because everyone involved makes money from patents being granted, then it would appear to be futile to expect any change in behaviour - in short, talk of regulation is mere lip service to the demand for change. And since patents on mathematics (software, algorithms) are unethical and unjustifiable (they monopolise knowledge of potentially natural processes, penalise independent discovery, presume the guilt rather than the innocence of all who "infringe"), the only kind of raised standards we should tolerate are those which forbid software patents altogether.