This today from the OSNews website: [...]
In other words, more protection for large companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft,
I dunno. It's easy to rant. With apologies for not thinking this through very clearly:
I used to help with patent monitoring when I was at work, though in the ink/toner industry, not the software patents that have got everyone so excited. Some people seem to talk as if patents were deliberately created by government as a bureaucratic tool for big companies to stifle progress, especially if it's made by the small guy. It's more a case of big companies warily circling round each other. They quite naturally want commercial advantage and don't want their concepts making money for the competition too early. Don't forget that a patent is a contract between the assignee and the public, giving the assignee a monopoly on the use of the invention, subject to some conditions, for a limited period, after which the invention passes into the public domain and can be used by anyone without payment. In other words, the big companies are in fact revealing (within the parameters of the patenting game) what they're doing, and eventually their competitors will be able to use the invention for free. OK, not for a long time, but the principle is there.
The U.S. patent system has always had certain peculiarities, as compared with the rest of the world. It insists on "first to invent," rather than "first to file." Although that sounds like morally higher ground, it's in fact a lawyers' paradise. You can riffle through the European Patent Office's documentation and clearly establish who got there first - but it's going to be very hard indeed to assess the claims of two competing companies from lab notebooks or whatever, and very expensive too. Rightly or wrongly, the insistence on "first to invent" has always seemed to me to assume that almost all inventions, and certainly the game-changing ones, are made by individuals or duos working in a garage. Well, those do happen, but in my experience, very rarely indeed. The great majority of patents came from fairly large companies, were mostly made by teams, and assigned to the companies those teams worked for. The inventions might not even be particularly innovative, but they should have enough novelty to qualify, and sometimes gain their owners a owners a temporarly advantage. So perhaps patents are a big company game, but in the main the players are big companies.