The world is in the midst of patent chaos,
and this is confirmed e.g. by patent litigation.
The number of patent applications at the USPTO in the United States from 1963 to 1983 increased from 90,982 to 112,040,
an average increase of ca. 1,000 patent applications per year.
In the 27 years since then,
patent applications have risen to a high of 520,277 in 2010,
an average increase of ca. 15,000 patent applications per year.
That is easy to explain,
for at fault are two disastrous United States Supreme Court decisions:
- Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980) - a 5-4 decision that allowed the patenting of living organisms and foolishly opened the door to gene patents, and
- Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175 (1981) - a 5-4 decision that essentially -- and foolishly permitted "software implemented" inventions and thus -- foolishly opened the door to software patents.
Those cases were followed in turn by a host of similarly wrong court decisions, summarized at the History of Software Patents at BitLaw.com.
The remarkable thing is that patent protection -- according to the U.S. Supreme Court holdings -- is not to be granted for "obvious" inventions, e.g. that are simply normal developments of the state of the art to someone versed in that field, a person called a PHOSITA = Person Having Ordinary Skill In The Art. To obtain a patent, the invention has to be "non-obvious".
Since the USPTO grants about 50% of all patent applications, this would mean that something like 250,000 patents have been or will be granted for the 2010 patent applications -- all, and this is THE LAW -- by definition, for "non-obvious" inventions and discoveries.
For the patent law industry, it is as if progress were somehow the march of the non-obvious,
whereas, in fact, exactly the opposite is the case.
Normal technological progress is obvious, and follows the path of where things are leading anyway, rather than where they are not leading.
Almost all new developments in high tech sectors are made by people researching in "obvious areas" defined by "the state of the art".
Almost no one is researching in areas that are "not obvious", where discoveries and profit are most unlikely.
In fact, the bulk of patent applications are made by mainstream technological companies researching the obvious next step in their field, and the patents they seek relate to normal research progress made by normal people, not by inventors or discoverers finding non-obvious things.
Accordingly, the current state of patent law is inexcusable, as it involves the granting of hundreds of thousands of patents for clearly OBVIOUS and PREDICTABLE discoveries in the sense that they are anticipated by the state of the art -- and hence -- also anticipated by prior art, as forming that state of the art.