The best Congress that money can buy (the US Congress, that is) has been rewarding corporate sponsors with stronger IP and patent laws. Other countries like Australia are following along. I think that this is likely to cause severe long term problems for technology development in the US because smaller countries without strong IP laws will follow the path of open source to the benefit of students and developers.
I have a background in science (a degree in Physics), and appreciate the open sharing of knowledge. In today’s techno-culture, increasingly, knowledge is encoded in software systems. I believe in both commercial and open source software – we need to encourage both.
I believe that this trend of stifling innovation will damage our long term economic strength, but I am not sure what to do about it except for writng the occasional letter to my Congress persons.
I saw on Slashdot this morning that the city of Munich is concerned that patent laws might cripple open source development – unfortunately, they are probably right.