I agree with xorbit in saying a patent doesn't have to be sell-able so that the inventor can make a profit. Patents make profit even if never sold because they enable a company to be the only ones allowed to use it. The company is the one obligated to pay the inventor. But I also disagree with xorbit whe you say that they are changing history. I suppose the company that buys another company's patent portfolio acquires the right to profit from the patent until it expires (10? 20 years?). I think this is why Oracle is suing Google. They have the right to profit from the patent, not the right to claim the invention.
An inventor can come up with a great idea but it's not only the idea that makes money, a company will take care of marketing it, manufacturing it, selling the product, and all what's involved in a business. Thus, this gives the company a logical right to profit.
If you couldn't sell patents, inventors of genuinely innovative inventions would still be able to profit, I'm sure. The thousands of junk patents that are being filed nowadays would probably not fare so well, and that's a good thing.
I know patents have value and they can be bought and sold--I just think this is what's fundamentally wrong with the system as it is.
The original intent of the patent system was to reward innovative people and promote sharing of ideas, but it is completely hijacked by lawyers and big money, providing no protection whatsoever for the intended benefactor: the inventor.
A patent should be a historic record that shows who invented something. Is should not be possible to assign, sell or buy it. This would foster a situation where the individual inventor reaps the reward for his invention. Yes, this can be in conjunction with the company he works for, but the inventor stays in control, his invention cannot be taken away from him. In such a situation, companies would have to place high value on their engineers, instead of wringing inventions out of them, throwing them away and then using their inventions to club someone (sometimes even the original inventor!) with it.
@xobit- Evan though patents are intangible, because they have have potential value they can be bought and sold. They parallel "good will" which is valued when a business is sold. The "messiness" comes about because often multiple inventors have the same idea nearly simultaneously, early documentation may not be precisely accurate, and complex patents often are based upon prior inventions and partial developments. I don't think anyone is trying to alter history by stating they invented something they did not, but for all practical purposes if they purchased the patent, the difference is not important.
Buying and selling patents should just not be allowed. Did Oracle invent Java? No they didn't. Why should they be allowed to "buy" the legal right to claim that they invented it, which is clearly not true? When the real inventor clearly disagrees with what they're doing?
Why is it considered OK to rewrite history on who invented what, and go to court based on "bought evidence"? The whole system is completely insane.