Daring Fireball links to this TechDirt post which in turn links to this New York Times article about a company called Intellectual Ventures, or, by some, Intellectual Vultures.
It's a fair bet that the original authors of patent law would be aghast at how extreme and distorted that concept has become in today's environment, and how it more frequently acts to stifle progress than to support it.
This situation is exacerbated by a patent office which is overwhelmed by the volume of new applications and frequently asked to rule upon issues that are beyond the expertise of anyone on staff, resulting in many patents being awarded which should not have been, either for being overly broad or for being obvious extrapolations of technology already in use.
I'm using the word "progress" to include both innovation and the eventual passing of intellectual property from private hands to the public domain, a concept which seems to have gotten completely lost, but which was very much a part of patent and copyright law as originally enacted.
If we can't managed health care reform, what hope have we of straightening out the mess that intellectual property has become?