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Patents are SUPPOSED to be useful to someone skilled in the area the patent covers. However, virtually all patents today are run through a team of lawyers who convert the patent into legalese in an effort to broaden the patent, and to obfuscate the workings of the patent to prevent people skilled in the area from actually using the patent. This is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE!
My suggestion: No lawyers can be involved in the writing of a patent. Period. All filed patents are run past someone skilled in the field, and if they can't understand the patent in its entirety, it's rejected out of hand.
Thom, you must add JLF65's suggestion to your list!
Patents must be readable by skilled engineers, and not only that but skilled engineers should be able to reproduce the entire invention from the information filed in the patent (or publicly available information referenced directly by the patent).
Another point that you don't mention is how do you handle the case where the invention was developed independently? I don't have an answer, just bringing up the question.
One last thing to point out is that today some applicants intentionally enumerate all possible workarounds for an invention so that competitors will have trouble engineering alternate solutions around patents. Again, I don't have an answer for it.