Computer geeks and software engineers have been saying it for years: The U.S. Patent system is totally screwed up, not in the public interest, and is going to end up hurting a lot of people. People like Lawrence Lessig have been crying foul in the copyright arena for quite a while, and the patent system shares many of the same ills as the copyright system. Those who have recognized the problem have responded with some amazing projects like Creative Commons. They have often been derided as anti-capitalist or sometimes even called communist - a taboo word in our country which the CC guys took ownership of and turned around on their attackers - so it is great to finally see some mainstream attention paid to the issue of overbearing intellectual property.
Michael Crichton has an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “This Essay Breaks the Law” in which he discusses the absurd direction in which our current system is heading: The Patenting of Everything. There are some clever twists of the law into areas most of us consider ridiculous, such as:
It means nobody can write a dinosaur story because my patent includes 257 items covering all aspects of behavior, like item No. 13, “Dinosaurs attack humans and other dinosaurs.”
But more serious is the looming truth that, eventually, the patent law is going to end up killing somebody. As Mr. Crichton says, “Do you want to be told by your doctor, ‘Oh, nobody studies your disease any more because the owner of the gene/enzyme/correlation has made it too expensive to do research?’”