Here is an interesting article which says what many people, particularly in the IT world where software patents appear to be given out in cornflake packets, have been thinking for a while now.
Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine believe the current patent/copyright system discourages and prevents inventions from entering the marketplace. The two professors have published their views in a new book, Against Intellectual Monopoly, from Cambridge University Press. In particular, they point to the fact that patents are being used to prevent AIDS sufferers in Africa from receiving life saving drugs, or students being prosecuted for pirating music off the Internet.
Levine states "There's plenty of protection for inventors and plenty of protection and opportunities to make money for creators. It's not that we see this as some sort of charitable act that people are going to invent and create things without earning money. Evidence shows very strongly there are lots of ways to make money without patents and copyright."
In terms of technology, many software companies use patent portfolios to use as defence should they be found in violation of a patent, such as Novell announcing that it would use it's portfolio of patents to defend against claims against some of its open source programs.
It appears that people are starting to see that patents are not being used for their original intent and purpose, which is to protect innovation from being blatantly copied without credit, rather than wipe it out all together. Another example is the patent over One click check out.