Finally got around to listening to the excellent episode of This American Life on patents: When Patents Attack! The episode surveys the state of the US patent system, using Nathan Myhrvold’s smarmy Intellectual Ventures as a hook to tell the story.
In polls, as many as 80 percent of software engineers say the patent system actually hinders innovation. In other words, it does exactly the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. It doesn’t encourage them to come up with new ideas and create new products, it actually gets in their way.
The Economist chimed in as well, saying that the American patent system is “a travesty which threatens the wealth and welfare of the whole world”.
At a time when our future affluence depends so heavily on innovation, we have drifted toward a patent regime that not only fails to fulfil its justifying function, to incentivise innovation, but actively impedes innovation.