!!!In the old days, an inventor got a *temporary* monopoly of her / his invention as recompense for all the hard work of inventing. After the time was up, anyone could exploit the invention and, if possible, improve on it.!!!
Boulton and Watt just sat on their invention and didn't bother to carry on making further improvements... therefore the entire steam revolution was stalled until his patent expired...
!!The second downside of the patent system is the devastating effect it has on incremental innovation. From 1786 to 1800 there was no increase in the duty of steam engines at all, as Boulton and Watt successfully sought to prevent competition by suppressing innovation. This should be a cautionary note for people who think that the current wave of patent litigation triggered by a system of software patents created by the courts is likely to have a beneficial impact on software innovation.!!
Microsoft are basically doing the same and computing and software development are suffering as a result... just think how fast software development would be proceding without software patents... and look at this remark from Bill Gates himself which shows just how hypocritical he is:
"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete stand-still today. The solution . . . is patent exchanges . . . and patenting as much as we can. . . . A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high: Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors."
ps I do wish we could use simple formatting to wrap quoted text with quotes....