Excellent article by the always readable David Warsh on how patenting has gone overboard, with various companies patenting things that are a) obvious, old hat or both, b) patented just for the sake of suing people who want to create real products, and c) limits real innovation.
Tom Evslin has previously written about a peer-review patent process, which is especially important for software patents, where it is relatively easy to demonstrate prior art, if only people know about it.
I read somewhere recently that someone was thinking about patenting a method of patenting obvious innovations (particularly in software) just to get at the patenters. Excellent idea, if I only could remember where I saw it….
(I am giving a talk called "Intellectual property – an anachronism in a digital age?" next week and am putting together pointers. Yochai Benkler seems a great starting point….)