The recent examples of repeated and ugly patent wars have kept us wondering - are patents a good thing or are they a waste of everybody's time and a hindrance to innovation itself? To draw an exaggerated analogy to the patent wars, let me present a scenario. I decide to patent 'breathing' one fine day. After about six months of running back and forth, the patent miraculously goes through. What would the rest of the human population now do? Do they stop breathing, or do I start suing them for it?
Although this is an exaggeration, it isn't far from the truth. If you look at simple things like the scroll bar in iPhones - there are patents behind those. And guess what, smart phones from other manufacturers (Samsung, Motorola to name a few) can't use it, because it is 'protected'. I definitely think that this is wasteful. If someone (anyone) spent time, energy and money developing a technology, why would the rest of the world not be able to use it? After all, don't we want to build the best products in the world? How can we do that unless we join hands to share each little technology that we develop?
In my opinion, we do need patents to protect intellectual property. However, there needs to be rules on what can be patented. There should be some sort of standards association (like the IEEE) that pre-decides what can be patented. For example, one should not be allowed to patent 'breathing'. How can such an organization pre-decide what can be patented? Well, I'm not the expert here! I'm sure there's lots of people out there who know better, and can make it work!