mjh writes: "Tim Lee is subbing for Atlantic blogger Megan McArdle while the latter is on vacation. Tim has done a 3 part review (part 1, part 2, part 3) of a book called Patent Failure. The review does a pretty good job of laying out the groundwork for how patents can be successful, where patents meet that criteria and where they fail. It also makes (IMHO) sensible suggestions on how to reform the patent system to get better results. Tim's conclusion (wikipedia links added by me):
"I hope it's clear why I'm uncomfortable with the analogy between patents and traditional property rights. Outside the pharmaceutical industry — and especially in the software industry — the patent system is more like a rent-seeking operation for the benefit of the patent bar than it is a functioning system of property rights. It's possible that the reforms I suggest above (and others Bessen and Meurer propose in their book) could improve things sufficiently that patents will work as property. But until that happens, I think it's a category error to regard patents as a type of property right.