The whole computer industry has been badly damaged by patents granted on pure mathematics in the USA, which have severely damaged the development of secure encryption. The Onion story about MS patenting the numbers 0 and 1 may seem ridiculous, but it isn't any more ridiculous than the RSA patent was.
And things appear to be getting worse. We have Apple's ridiculous design right on a rectangle with rounded corners (which ignores decades of prior art). There are companies who promote ideas in standards committees while concealing patent applications they have filed on those very ideas instead of declaring them. I frequently see reports of new patents on things which are blatantly obvious, devoid of any inventive step, and for which masses of prior art existed at the time of filing. I also see patent applications for which there is no working model. When did that requirement get dropped from US law, or is it still there in the law, but US patent examiners are even stupider than I think they are? Attempts by European bureaucrats to build a pan-European patent system seem to be designed to create a paradise for empire-building bureaucrats and expensive patent lawyers and patent trolls (like SCO) and a hell for real innovators, especially in small businesses. And I see reports of patents for things occurring in nature, with nothing created by human beings (where oh where do the patent examiners think the inventive step is in something like that? And how many people will have to die because someone has patented what could save them before the laws that allow such nonsensical patents are overturned?).
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