Idea Patent - (Sep/08/2012 )
In 1980's people were patenting Ideas. they would apply patent for Idea they imagine. Now its not allowed. I have a question that if they just patented on idea at that time and never worked on that did they still hold patent right for that idea?
IIRC the protection time is 20-25 years. And you have to pay a fee regularly, and if you don't do it the time is reduced. At least for Europe it's more or less this way (no idea if the laws were very different in the 80s). So ideas from 1986 and before should be free now.
BTW many universities have an office that deals with these questions and they know exactly the details of patenting issues and laws.
Also you can check the status of the patent. Here for example:
You have a tab for patent family status (the above example is not the best). You can check what is the patent status and in which countries you can go around it ; I know of companies that have branches in Singapur and Bangladesh just because they can use technology that is patented in US and EU. And I do not know how strict they are about patenting ideas. I mean the method I was working in a company to develop was already patented under a simple way that worked but they have patented the future directions of method development they had in mind aka what I was developing was already covered by the patent.