2011 has been the year that decisively marks the coming-to-light of the stupidity inherent in the way our patent system operates. After an enthralling episode of This American Life cast the spotlight on Intellectual Ventures, Nathan Mhyrvold’s multibillion-dollar, patent-hoarding company, the story spread like wildfire and the larger public suddenly became aware of the vast inequity the dominates the tech world from behind the scenes. Designed to protect inventors and innovators by helping them prevent competitors from stealing their ideas, the patent system has evolved into a weapon wielded by mighty tech companies as a last-ditch effort to keep competitors’ products off the market. Patents are still protection – though now they more resemble Mafia-style, buy-it-or-die protection than anything intended by our government when they instituted it decades ago. As a result, innovation suffers. In the long run, business is sure to suffer too.