The Singularity! the Rapture of the Nerds! The point where exponential growth in technology can begin to advance itself and .... well, life will be as different from now as water is from ice. Of course, we could talk about this for a very long time, but the main point is this - technology increases exponentially. So for a long time, it looks like nothing is happening at all, then the there is a gradual increase and then it simply increases like mad. That is the point we are almost at.
But does it make sense to have a patent office once we reach the Singularity? It is no simple thing to keep up with a exponential increase in technology. Insisting on patents and copyrights would eventually slow us down more than it could ever help us. So called "Intellectual Property: legistlation of any kind, would impose a limit to just how fast technology can develop without it either slowing deployment of technology, or itself becoming utterly obsolete.
In other words, the patent office itself would have to grow exponentially - at the same rate. Sure, it is easy enough when the curve is flat, as it has been. But once the increase is clearly exponential, the patent office would have to hire more people to handle and exponentially increasing demand, and an exponentially increasing amount of prior art to search through. In practical terms, that means a patent is more and more likely to be infringing in some way, on someone else's patent. Finally, we would reach the point that the paperwork and redtape would take more effort than the innovating itself would. This sounds like the absurd and extreme limit, but the whole issue of the singularity is- inventions as fundimental at the internet or the wheel finally happening at monthly, weekly, and finally, even a daily pace.
We are at a unique time in history - but our greed might just stop the whole thing.
Here is a brief discussion of Lawrence Lessig discussing this from the context of copyright.