I figured you'd say that. But I've read enough patent prosecution files to know that the examiners just go through the motions. First, they turn down all the claims. Then the patentee says they should be allowed. Finally, the examiner just throws up his hands and gives in. I've seen it many, many times. The vast majority of patents are absolute garbage. They do nothing but hamper real innovation. Remember the all-time classic "Method of Exercising a Cat"? This patent was all too representative. However, the open source world can use patents against themselves just as it uses copyrights against themselves. Just as most open source software is still copyrighted, open source hardware can still be patented. The key is in the licensing terms. You grant free use to anyone UNLESS they try to assert one of their own patents against you or anyone else using it. This is how you block someone from trying to take your idea proprietary, just as the GNU licenses keep parties from tweaking some piece of open source software and taking it proprietary. At least for the term of the patent, anyway. Thanks to the sorry state of the patent system, this was already very common practice even before open source. It's better known as "defensive patenting". You file tons of patents on anything and everything you can think of, novelty and non-obviousness be damned. Most will still be granted anyway, but you assert them only against those who sue you first. Even though they may be invalidated at trial, it'll cost the other party so much in defense that he'll probably give up and leave you alone. The only winners are the lawyers and those with the deep pockets to pay them. So your belief that the patent system actually protects real innovators is hopelessly naive. Then again, it's a claim often made by those who play the patent system as predatory trolls, because the average layman may actually believe them.