You won't get much argument from me on this one. I'm not sure we could do away with the idea entirely (though the fashion industry seems to do fine without it), there is no doubt in my mind that if we can't dump them outright, we at least need to drastically shorten the term of protection.
Entrenched power would fight any attempt in that direction. Microsoft, IBM, GM - you name it, whatever the industry, patents and copyrights keep them on top. One of the arguments in favor of patents is that the opposite is trade secrets, which (duh!) means that ideas can remain secret and never benefit society by being released. That's true, though in many cases reverse engineering solves that problem, and far too many patents protect ideas that are transparently obvious anyway. Maybe that should be part of what determines how long a patent should last - if it couldn't be kept as a trade secret because it's so damn obvious, perhaps the length of the patent would be proportionately shortened.
I think it's far past time for reform in this area.
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2012-06-25 Tony Lawrence
When someone says: "I want a programming language in which I need only say what I wish done", give him a lollipop. (Alan J. Perlis)