We've been discussing many of the reasons why the patent system is broken for quite some time -- and while a few people who benefit from the system always show up to defend it (usually with tautological arguments that amount to "the system works, because it's the system we have"), it appears that more and more people are recognizing that the system is fundamentally broken. The latest is author Michael Crichton who discusses how the patent system has expanded far too broadly to protect things that should never be protected -- and how it's harming innovation in many ways by making it prohibitively expensive. The focus of his article is on a specific case that is going to the Supreme Court this week, where a company was able to get the patent on the correlation between a certain amino acid and a certain vitamin. They now consider even publishing the details to be a violation of their patent -- even if it's simply factual information. Over the past few decades, patent lawyers have pushed for expansions in what patents can cover, well beyond what the system was ever intended to do. Granting a patent is giving someone a monopoly -- and that should only be done in the rarest of cases where the market has been shown to be insufficient in rewarding innovation. From the earliest days of the patent system, Thomas Jefferson made it clear that there was an inherent downside to patents, and they should only be granted under special circumstances. Why that should include things like correlations or business models (or software) has never been adequately explained.
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