“…standing on the shoulder of the giants”
— Linus Torvalds in his biography, attributed to Isaac Newton.
The quote above means to be able to utilise others’ achievements in order to make progress. It’s the reverse of “reinventing the wheel”.
Great scholars and inventors of the past benefited from this greatly.
However, international patent laws are set to stifle this – the system enable the rich & greedy to acquire large number of patents, thus disabling others from basing their work on it:
Worse, the patent applications are flooding the patent offices, so the overworked staff are granting it even to the ridiculous ones.
An example is the notorious hyperlink patent, owned by British Telecom. Even though Sir Tim Berners-Lee doesn’t patent this invention of his, BT applied for patent for it instead – and got it.
Somebody may commented that you can always challenge a patent – the problem is, the process is not doable to most people.
It takes time, and most of the time, a LOT of money.
So the big corporations are getting away with it. And the rest of humankind just have to enjoy this new kind of slavery – ideas slavery.
Interestingly, America was able to flourish due to the lack of patent system:
Ideally, the solution is to abolish patent.
But, with current condition, this will just make the big boys to copy the small fishes’ innovations, and kill them with advertising and cheap price brought by mass production.
For now, the solution probably is to set the fee of patent application variably, depending on the applicant’s last year income. And then the patent may not be transferred to other party.
This way, patents will become affordable to the poor (but creative), and will stop the big corporations from putting a burden on the system.