Seeing as this thread has just been given the kiss of life - just thought I'd take the opportunity to comment re: the above. Patents do NOT work for procedures/ applications/ inventions that people can easily and readily avail themselves of. Strewth - we only need to look as far as Lorenzo Langstroth to see evidence of this ! That guy should have died the richest man in the graveyard, and not as a pauper. There wasn't even enough money in his estate to provide for a grave headstone - Root & others had to hand around a begging bowl in order to purchase that.Having a number of patents myself, including two which I have pursued violators on, I have to disagree. Big businesses are loath to violate them, as patent courts tend to scale penalties to the size of the violator and size of the violation. Its simply cheaper for them to buy-out or licence the patent.
D.L.Adair tried making money from his patented beehive by selling 'Trade-Marks' - which were disks of stamped metal attached to the hive body. Anyone caught using an Adair hive without one would then be subjected to the full force of the law ... in theory. So how do you police that ? You can't. It doesn't work.
Because of this, Gallup and Adair decided from the outset that their new Long Hive (which out-performed the Langstroth hive - duly confirmed by A.I. Root) would be Patent-free. And was one of the principle reasons why it never caught on. Because there was nothing for the Agents to sell (the 'rights' to use a Langstroth Hive had been sold for 10 dollars a time during the 1860's & 70's - big money back then. But how much of that $10 did Langstroth ever receive ? )
And yes - Patents can be used to stifle innovation - a good example is a major American welding equipment manufacturer who has filed a patent for the use of exhaust gas from an internal combustion engine to be used as a shielding gas - but they have not been required to demonstrate this technique. Indeed, this method has never been developed. But - because of their all-encompassing 'umbrella' pre-emptive patent for this, no-one in their right minds would now spend serious amounts of time and/or money pursuing this, only to be robbed of the rewards if/when it is shown to work.
FWIW - I will shortly be revealing a minimal-management (2 visits a year) fixed-volume horizontal hive - equivalent to five Warre boxes - which contains 24 standing-frames. I believe it to be a totally novel design. Will I attempt to patent it ? Not a chance - wouldn't waste my money.