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The original idea with government-enforced patents was to advocate and entice innovation: Giving an inventor the exclusive rights to his own invention for a decade or two would give motivation for people to make new inventions. Money is a good incentive, and the inventions themselves would better the entirety of society after the modest exclusivity time had expired, allowing others to improve the invention and make new discoveries.
Sadly, this original purpose of patenting has been completely lost and, what is worse, its intended effect has been more or less reversed.
For the last decades there has been a literal war between companies, and the weapons used in this war are patents. Big companies (especially software companies) are arming themselves with thousands and thousands of patents. And this is not an allegory or an exaggeration: It's literally what companies are doing. Companies do file thousands and thousands of patents for the sole reason of defending themselves against other companies and, more frighteningly, to possibly attack other companies.
As a concrete example, Sun Microsystems procrastinated in entering the patenting war for a relatively long time, thinking that they wanted to be market leaders because of the quality of their products rather than because of the amount of patents they own.
Then IBM taught Sun a lesson in the harsh realities of modern economy, by suing them (based on some frivolous RISC patents) and winning big. Sun learned the lesson and started to file patents like mad from that point forward. Much later Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, and is now suing Google, yet again using some frivolous patents.
This is a real war. Not only are companies using patents as their armament, for both defense and direct attacks, but there are actually small companies which could be called, for the lack of a better term, mercenaries. These companies are vernacularly called "patent trolls". The only thing these companies do is to buy patents from existing companies and then either sue other companies for alleged infringement or offer to sell the patents to those companies (with the threat of a lawsuit if the company doesn't buy them). These are like arm dealers which are at the same time rogue mercenary armies, extorting and attacking whoever is weakest.
The result of this war is that the original intent of patents has been more or less reversed: Companies and individuals are afraid of making new inventions for the fear that some company or patent troll is going to sue them, forcing them to go bankcrupt. After all, a good rule of thumb is: "If it exists, it has been patented." (If nothing else, dozens of existing patents which are sufficiently vaguely worded can be interpreted as covering the new invention.)
In other words, patents are discouraging and killing innovation.
For this reason I think that the whole patenting system could be completely abolished. It doesn't serve its original purpose, but on the contrary it's being abused. Innovation and progress are being hurt because of this patent war going on. The entirety of human civilization is the victim.
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