This story on slashdot is an excellent example of how debauched intellectual property is as a means of stimulating research, development and innovation:
As we discussed on Tuesday, Andre Geim won this year’s Nobel prize in physics for graphene, but he never patented it. In an interview with Nature News, he explains why: ‘We considered patenting; we prepared a patent and it was nearly filed. Then I had an interaction with a big, multinational electronics company. I approached a guy at a conference and said, “We’ve got this patent coming up, would you be interested in sponsoring it over the years?” It’s quite expensive to keep a patent alive for 20 years. The guy told me, “We are looking at graphene, and it might have a future in the long term. If after ten years we find it’s really as good as it promises, we will put a hundred patent lawyers on it to write a hundred patents a day, and you will spend the rest of your life, and the gross domestic product of your little island, suing us.” That’s a direct quote.
Of course this doesn’t just point to the inadequacies of the intellectual property system. It points to the extraordinary inefficiencies of our legal system. You’d think it might have been targeted for micro-economic reform by now, but because micro-economic reform became a deregulatory formula long ago the best that economists can manage is to argue for deregulation of advocacy, which may or may not be a good idea. But there are much bigger problems than that.