An article at Scientific American raises an interesting question: does the patent system create a backdoor to legislation? It contains a number of interesting points, as well as a few instances where this is already starting to happen.
I’ve been thinking along similar lines, but about a different “backdoor”. That backdoor I theorize is the DMCA. It allows someone to use (no matter how simple or weak) to be used to effectively “lock up” files and protocols, simply because it’s illegal to break that encryption. Imagine what would happen to OpenOffice and other open source office suites is Microsoft decided to use 1 bit encryption on their suit of file formats. If you’re interested in more thoughts on this subject, take a look at Lawrence Lessig’s Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace.
Do you think the patent system and DMCA allow “private regulation”?