I wish it made more concrete propositions about how patent law should be changed though. The follow-up posted by Becker on the same blog and on the same day is interesting in this regard, as it proposes the extreme solution of dropping patents on anything but a few products altogether, something which was already somewhat hinted at by Posner : http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/2012/09/reforming-the-patent-syst...

I personally wouldn't agree with that, though, since the choice of "patentable" products would necessarily be quite arbitrary. It would be better, in my opinion, to have a weaker, but universal patent system, that doesn't need to be tweaked for every new product that comes out.Edited 2012-10-04 04:52 UTC

You could even simplify this - have a different patent duration for each industry that reflects the average cost of developing inventions in that industry. For software the average cost of developing an invention is approximately the same as the cost of 3 phone calls (to find a uni student who's looking for a thesis subject) and a carton/box of beer.

- Brendan

That would be interesting indeed, but then how would development time and cost be measured ?

For software; I'd measure it in units of "uni students". Ask 100 different uni students to solve the problem and see how many "invent" the same invention. If all of them come up with the solution that's described by the patent, then it's a "zero uni student" patent worth nothing (declared obvious), and if only 3 come up with the solution described by the patent then it's a "97 uni student" patent worth about about 97 dozen bottles of beer.

Of course if none of the uni students "invent" the invention in the patent you'd expand your search - try 1000 uni students, then 10000, etc. If you ever run out of uni students, then you assume that most uni students have been inventing something better than the method in the patent and declare the patent "irrelevant on the grounds of obsolescence" (worthless).

For this system, the maximum worth of any patent is equal to the number of uni students available minus 1, multiplied by the price of 12 bottles of beer. If a country has 1 million uni students and a bottle of beer costs $1; then the maximum worth of a patent is (almost) $12 million.

- Brendan