One interesting recent case of the use of trade secrets instead of patents was brought up by Elon Musk in an interview about SpaceX:
In effect, SpaceX sees no merit in patents because they would supposedly allow competitors in places where patents are unenforceable to "use them as a recipe book" and thus undermine SpaceX's cost advantage. Advocates of widespread patenting and universally enforced patents might argue that this could give SpaceX an effective monopoly, too, if the company became a dominant actor in commercial spaceflight.
But even a patent system that is "ideal" according to the expectations of patent advocates might not persuade SpaceX to participate or produce the kind of licensing that would be most beneficial to society - a phenomenon we are all now familiar with in our own field, of course. And as soon as one gets into compulsory licensing, one might as well start considering doing away with patents altogether and implementing some of the alternatives.
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