I had a chance this afternoon to see one of my favorite writers and thinks, George Gilder. He came to Microsoft to speak. Anyway, he said something very interesting. He stated than patents are not all that valuable because they are open. Usually having the idea is not worth much until someone can reduce it to practice. An example he used was that of the microprocessor. This was something many people had the idea of doing. It wasn't terribly useful to have that idea until someone figured out to actually manufacture such a beast. Once that happened, the idea became valuable. This knowledge about how to do something is what he calls a "latent." This is an interesting idea and it has, I think, two implications:
George Gilder works at the Discovery Institute. His newest book is called the Silicon Eye.