To come up with a decent system, we need to start at the beginning. What is the purpose of the patent system and is the implementation of that system actually fulfilling that purpose. We must first consider if there is really is any benefit to software (actually all) patents or not. There are essentially 3 cases in the marketplace I can see.
case 1. Two almost equally sized companies working on the same product(s). This situation does not seem to require patents. Let them compete on execution. The one to think of it first has a head start already, they don't need to be granted exclusive rights.
case 2. Smaller company tech is reverse engineered by large company and then out competed in the marketplace by the larger company with more resources. This case is the only one patents help with and should cover.
case 3. Independent inventor develops an invention that they believe they can sell or bring to production later but currently lacks to the ability to do anything with the idea.
It seems like we do need to allow some sort of limited ownership of tech to prevent case 2 from stifling startups. Also we should have provision for those without the means or fortitude to bring an invention to production to have the opportunity to pimp their inventions without fear of loss. So for patents to work as a benefit to society, they need to operate something as follows.
1. Startup company files a patent to give them exclusive right to develop a new product they thought up first. Patent includes deliverables and development timelines. Company pays a yearly fee along with updates to the timelines. If timelines are missed by more than 1 year on each update, patent is invalidated. (This to make sure progress to market is actually being made.) Company is given 1-5 years exclusive market rights after the product is delivered (depending on the product) to recoup costs and establish a market.
2. An established company (one with at least one product on the market and revenue) can file a patent only to keep (1) from preventing them from developing a product. That is, since (1) allows startups to block an established company from entering a market for a period, if the established company thinks of an idea first they need a way to keep that from happening. Patents from an established company do not require a development timeline since they cannot be used to prevent anyone from developing the patented technology.
3. A non-practicing inventor can file a patent (without development timeline) and then pay a yearly fee to keep it under their control. The fee will increase steeply every year and have a time limit of X years (X = 10?). The increasing fee will prompt them to develop or sell rather than just sit on the invention.
As far as I can tell, this scheme would fix the patents system to be beneficial to everyone that actually does something. (ie. not lawyers or politicians). See any holes in it? Why wouldn't this work?
From that press release: "and its Curiosity rover are less than four months into a two-year prime mission to investigate".
What exactly is a "two-year prime mission"? Is that like "2 years !"? 2! years == 2 factorial years == 2 * 1 years == 2 years. So essentially it is a fancy redundant way of saying it is a two year mission.
Or maybe they mean that it is a "prime" mission in the sense of a "prime" cut of beef? It really is a super-duper A1 top mission. Not one of those crappy lesser missions we are always hearing about.
why can't i read SciFi all day long?
I'll bite. Why can't I? What makes english literature any better than science fiction literature?
Classic literature is way overrated. Other than being able to know an answer while watching a game show it was useless. When I was little I wanted to read Asimov and Clarke and Heinlein and Bradbury, and I did. The stuff they forced me to read for english class was dreck by comparison. I hated them for making me read that crap just because somebody else thought it was good.