Jantje: I never stated that patents and open source are not very different. But if you are in china and the patent is in USA it is 100% legal to copy and you have 100% information on how to do it. Even if you are a researcher or doing non commercial things for yourself there is little distinction between the 2. This because patents are there to share the work without losing the copy right. With the same idea as with open source that when you share it will grow.
Patents are to protect the commercial rights to an idea. It has nothing to do with copyrights. i.e. it controls who has the right to make a product for sale or use the idea in a commercial product. Individuals are always allowed to use patented ideas and implement them in their own personal products.
Don't be fooled about open source. It is not because you can freely "read" the code there are no patents in there and there is no copy right. If you can be bothered read the gpl, cpl and epl licences. or read this wiki page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eclipse_Public_License Best regards Jantje
Duh... I'm quite familiar with the patent/trademark systems (US vs EU vs Asia vs rest of world) as well as copyrights and various licensing: gpl (v2 vs v3) bsd, apachie, creative commons, and a variety of others. How they work and the limitations involving closed vs open source in derivative works. I have more than a dozen issued patents many of which are International not just US with 3 currently still pending. I was founder of company that we took public in the late 90's (EFNT on nasdaq) and then grew to 800 employees and finally sold it for $1B a few years later, so I'm very familiar with many of the intricacies of the patent system (including the recent US changes from "first to invent" to "first to file") as well as the advantages and issues surrounding using open source in commercial products.
There are many different "open source" licenses and as a business if you choose to deal with open source (use it or give it away) you have understand what it really means by understanding the risks of using it in your products and potential risks to the profits (businesses are about making money right?) and how it can potentially enable competitors.
Some licenses like LGPL are essentially "freeware" where GPL v3 is at the opposite end of the spectrum which requires opening up anything that touches it as well as some patent enforcement restrictions. And there are many that land in between.
(I'll drop out now as this is moving into a open source philosophy discussion which is way off topic)