@blaznwiipspman1, this thread's for you!
We've been having a lot of patent discussion sneaking into
some of all of our threads. Let's have a proper place for that discussion for a while.
At the absolute root level, the purpose of a patent system is to increase consumer access to goods and services. We know this because that is the purpose of economic systems, and the maximization of that consumer access is the goal of economic theory.
"But," some say, "by definition patents limit consumer access by limiting competition, limiting supply, and artificially raising prices!" This is true, and economists universally recognize that. However, proponents of patents theorize that they increase consumer access on net by encouraging innovation with their promise of artificially large rent seeking opportunities for the length of the patent (as opposed to merely the length of time it would take competitors to mimic their products). Yes, rent seeking is typically seen as bad in economics, but patent proponents believe it to be a necessary evil in this case.
That is the primary line of questioning for patent system opponents: Do patents encourage innovation beyond that which would occur with the natural rent seeking window? If so, does that marginal increase in innovation have a net positive effect on consumer access after factoring in the negative effects on consumer access caused by the increased rent seeking?
If after considering that line of questioning we decide that a patent system provides a net positive benefit, the question shifts to the details of the patent system and how best to maximize it's benefits. In order to keep this part as brief as possible, I'll just offer an example: Several years ago there was some economic research published that concluded that patents should be reduced to 3 years in length. This, they concluded, was adequate time to realize a handsome return on investment (thereby providing innovation incentive) while increasing consumer access by decreasing what they found to be an excessive monopoly window. And the copyright laws that keep getting extended to allow some content nearly 100 years of protection now? Forget about it, they said. All that does is decrease consumer access, not increase it.
So where do you stand, OT? Is a patent system necessary and, if so, what should it look like?