A somewhat odd article that touches on patents and science crossed my desk last week in the weekend science section of my newspaper, the NRC. It's about an experiment used to detect dark matter, the DAMA experiment undertaken under the Gran Sasso mountain. Science is largely about reproducibility, at least in the physical sciences: an experiment must be repeatable for it to have any weight as a data point. The reporting might be a little sketchy here, but it claims that the experiment is not repeatable (by researchers elsewhere) because there's a *patent* on some parts of the original experiment and no-one can deliver the parts to another group of researchers without violating the patent license. The patent holders in this case are the research group who did the experiment in the first place.
Now, this might simply come down to a basic patent licensing dispute (which might be resolved either by granting special permission by the patent holder to another research group, or by re-using some of the original equipment, or by working around the experiment design entirely), but it's certainly an illustration of how patents can stand in the way of even basic science questions asking "is this true?"