More oil in the fire of why patents or lawyers harm the free development of the Internet and worldwide trade and commerce, not to mention the free exchange of information.

The article is a bit old, and can only be accessed after registration, but it is a very interesting read.

Quote from it: "All over the Internet, from the most popular search engines to personal home pages, are buttons that offer to send users to an online store where they can buy books or music or other merchandise. Hundreds of thousands of sites have added these links because they earn commissions if any of their users click on them and then buy something.

This week, those sites suddenly found themselves at risk of violating a patent just granted to a New York company called LinkShare Corp. That patent gives LinkShare the right to block anyone from using such an arrangement for links between sites with commission payments.

The number of patents related to the Internet has been skyrocketing. .. At the end of the day, Internet sites may be forced to pay royalties to use some of the most popular features. And in some cases, patent holders may keep some of the best ideas to themselves, the way Xerox, for example, blocked competitors from offering plain-paper copiers for years. "

The article is at http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/12/biztech/articles/11web.html