If this is too far off topic, feel free to delete.
I don't know how many of you play paintball, if any, but there was an incident a few years ago that reminds me of what I see in the Hammock community today.
In Paintball, since the 80's there were many ideas that the inventors kind of gave over to the public domain. They did this in the hopes of growing the sport, and developing a sense of community. All was well, in the paintball world, untill it actually DID start to explode into a very proffitable market. That is when the greed set in. One single company called Smart Parts, who was run by a family, that also ran another business, too a big chunk of cash, hired a lawer, and patented all of the ideas that had been in the public domain forever. THe long and short of the story is that the went in, patented every idea they could think off, and then turned around and sued everyone else who was using the stuff they patented, and won.
The thing about patents, is that if the greenhorn patent researcher doesn't know the product, or find any previous art in the patent archives, they generally accept the patent. The thought is, that is is up to the patent holder to enforce his rights in the market.
Now we see the same thing starting to happen in the Hammock world...
I personally have been hammock camping since about 1985. It isn't a new idea. But with the creation of new fabrics, or the adaptation of different knots or shapes to hammocks and tarps, these ideas may or may not be patentable. THey fist guy to the patent clerk, could end up holding all the marbles, should push come to shove.
A particular Popular Tarp, is a prime example of an exploitable idea, and I would hate to see it's creator get raked over the coals, just for having faith in the current air of good will.
As a follow up, Smart Parts is now a Market leader in Paintball, riding out numerous bouts of boycots and bad publicity. THey have virtually, single handedly quashed innovation in the industry, and forced a large percent of their once thriving competition out of business.