The question of which culture originally invented the wheeled vehicle remains unresolved and under debate.
This was finally settled in 2001 when Ig Nobel Prize for technology was awarded jointly to John Keogh of Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia, for patenting the wheel in the year 2001, and to the Australian Patent Office for granting him Innovation Patent #2001100012. (probably 6,000 years after it was invented)
On a serious note, patents are a big deal in the software industry right now. Lawsuits are proliferating. Big technology companies are spending billions of dollars to buy up huge patent portfolios in order to defend themselves. Computer programmers say patents are hindering innovation.
For decades, the patent office considered software to be like language. A piece of software was more like a book or an article. You could copyright the code, but you couldn't patent the whole idea. In the 1990s, the Federal courts stepped in and started chipping away at this interpretation. There was a couple big decisions, one in 1994 and another in 1998, which overturned the patent office completely.
A flood of software patents followed. A lot of people in Silicon valley wish that had never happened, including a very surprising group: computer programmers.
More details and audio podcast (Note: technology used in pod-costing itself was in a dispute :-) is available at:
When Patents Attack
“..At the same time Crawford's patent was being prosecuted, more than 5,000 other patents were issued for "the same thing," Martin says.”
“Martin says about 30 percent of U.S. patents are essentially on things that have already been invented. In 2000, for example, the patent office granted a patent on making toast — patent number 6080436, "Bread Refreshing Method."
US congress is working to reform the process