Been too quiet lately -- I just haven't been in the mood. Need to post something, just to shake the rust off. Okay, let's see if I can provoke a discussion by throwing out some strong assertions.
Assertion: the patent system is, at this point, doing more harm than good. The point of the thing was to spur technological advance and dissemination in the public interest; at this point, in most fields, I believe it's hindering those public interests more than helping them. I'm certain that's the case in programming and related fields of high-tech, where patents are mostly a nuisance. (Yes, yes -- I know the old saws about patents protecting the little guy against the big ones. Far as I can tell, that's mostly nonsense: the big ones can afford better lawyers to deal with the problem, *and* they hold far deeper patent arsenals, so it helps them at least as much.) I'm less certain about other fields, but I'm coming to be suspicious even there.
Thus, I'll say (perhaps over-broadly): we would be better off as a society if patents as we know them didn't exist. Discuss.