A belated thanks for Jim Rapozas column on patent/intellectual property abuse [Tech Directions, "Patent, IP Abuse Poses Hurdle in Tech Evolution" or "Been There, Done That," April 10].
There are two things that would help with the problem.
First, extend the period for prior art to last until a patent application is made public. This would push companies to immediately publish their applications, benefiting the public with disclosure, and it would prevent folks from getting patents on an invention that is obvious to anyone working in the field.
Second, implement peer review—the basis of scientific publication for several centuries. A patent holder whose reviewers comments were, for example, I have no idea what invention this patent discloses, or, There is no useful enabling information in the specification, would have a much harder time suing anyone.
The system is broken.