In recent years, however, the patent system has been stifling innovation rather than encouraging it. A study in 2008 found that American public companies’ total profits from patents (excluding pharmaceuticals) in 1999 were about $4 billion—but that the associated litigation costs were $14 billion. Such costs are behind the Motorola bid: Google, previously sceptical about patents, is caught up in a tangle of lawsuits relating to smartphones and wants Motorola’s huge portfolio to strengthen its negotiating position (see article).
Of course, the Bessen/Meurer work wasn't right in the first place.
**The Economist opinion piece made several suggestions:
patents in fields where innovation moves fast and is relatively cheap—like computing—should have shorter terms than those in areas where it is slower and more expensive—like pharmaceuticals.
the bar for obtaining a patent, particularly for software or business methods, should be much higher
there should be greater disclosure requirements of the ownership of patent portfolios, and patent cases should be heard by specialised courts