A patent is a legal grant for a monopoly right to the use of an invention. Specifically it is an right or title made by a government that gives the creator of an invention the exclusive right to make, use, and sell that invention for a set period of time.
Originally designed to encourage the disclosure of innovations, the patent system is suffering from function creep. Over a period of centuries, market forces have come to dominate patent system, harming technical innovation in the name of individuals or organizations.
Patents of Internet business method should be discouraged because they limit innovation and run contrary to the decentralised nature of the internet. The main justification for intellectual property rights in the form of patent monopolies is the cost of production of new knowledge and innovations is often greater than zero, sometimes much greater.
Unfortunately the main input to the production of new knowledge is existing knowledge, and keeping the latter artificially expensive will certainly slow down production of the former.
Many people do not share their ideas because of the patent system. For example if you work for a large telecommunications company and you worked out a better way of connecting customers, sharing your idea with others in your organisation, without obtaining a patent can mean loss of any and all forthcoming rewards. Because of this barrier many people may supress things which would otherwise have led to progress.
Fortunately, ideas that were invented and before a submitted patent are known as prior art and can invalidate a patent. Many Internet businesses have sought to patent simple activities such as one-click shopping by Amazon.com or online auctioning in Woolston vs. eBay.
Patents can be temporarily sealed under USA Secrecy Orders.
- PCMagazine - Patent Riots of 2003 Dvorak's article on Patents
- Wikipedia: Patent
- Wikipatents Lists of interesting, amusing or innovative patents. Comment on individual patents.
- Slashdot: stories on Patents
- Groklaw: New Patent Proposals: It Shouldn't Be Obvious, for Starters
- Free Patents Original Web Site - Protecting Innovation & Competition in the IT Industry - Dedicated to the protection of innovation, competition and open source software against the use and abuse of software patents.
- Patent News - Aggregate news regarding patents and other IP related topics (has RSS feeds).
- Newsforge: Patents in an open source world by Lawrence Rosen, OSI lawyer.
- Greplaw: RSS Feeds for Patent Buffs - At the time of writing for Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.
- Richard Stallman (FSF), Christian Engstrom, Marco Schulze (FFII) at the Estonian IT College on Software Patents in Europe.  . You need the Ogg Theora/VP3 codec to play this.