If I may butt in to your conversation here, I have something to add to this.
In real life the patent system was designed to allow an inventor to see the benefit of the work he put in to his invention by giving him a government mandedated, limited time
monopoly on its production or use. The generally accepted limit is between 10 and 20 years depending on the country and how long it's taken to register. The reason for this limit was to prevent a permanent monopoly in the part of the inventor, by allowing the technology to be used by everyone. If, by the time the patent expired, the technology was seen to be beneficial then it would soon become ubiquitous. One part of the patent system that you all seem to have forgotten is the idea of licensing. Patent owners can license their patents to other manufacturers, allowing them to produce the same patented item as long as they pay for the priveledge. Once the patent expires they can continue to produce it for free. Either way, the inventor gains from his investment. That's what patents are for, to encourage investment in new technologies and then share the results
because in order to patent something you have to describe it. In exchange you get to keep it all to yourself for a time. The alternative was keeping it secret and, in all likelihood, never profiting from it.
So, if I may be so bold, I'd suggest something similar in this game. A simple patent system that allows you sole use of certain inventions for a certain period of time, the ability to license them to other companies for that same period, and the ability to bid for licenses of other companies' patented technology for use in your own company.
Ok, back to lurking.