"So, Tony Stark gets to choose: disclose the details of the invention in a patent and correspondingly get superior civil (i.e. monetary) relief if someone copies it, or try to keep the invention secret himself and hope that criminal law dissuades people from stealing it."
This implies something that isn't true: that Tony Stark has to choose between the two strategies. In reality, he could choose to patent parts of the Iron Man suit and keep other parts trade secrets. As we software developers well know, you are allowed to patent each individual innovation, not just the whole of a product.
For example, Stark Industries could get multiple patents on the suit software. They could get separate utility patents on the thrusters, the briefcase fold-up design, and some of the suit-specific weapons. Additionally, they'd try to get design patents on each of the suit designs. But, they could still keep the power generation unit and the navigation software secret.
Funny how we make different associations when watching movies.
I watched this movie and thought about BCI, computer vision and marvel comics.
A lawyer takes a look at it and sees patents, laws and court.
I didn't even pay attention to the part where Peppers was talking on the phone about patents. To me, it was just some business blabla needed for the scene to make her look busy.
However, I did pay close attention to how he manipulated his 3D, his home interface, the jargon used, the software (no comments) etc.
I found most interesting the bit about the states secrets privilege. Every time I encounter that I suspect that some bureaucrat somewhere is using it to cover his ass, and the government is likely in the wrong. Certainly my reading about the facts of the very first case where it was asserted, United States vs Reynolds, says that this was the motivation.
"In the film, Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, demands action from "patent attorneys," but Stark Industries obviously hadn't patented the technology, or else the government would already have access to the information needed to reproduce the armor."
When was the last time anyone here read a patent and thought "now I have all I need to implement"?
I read through the patents about paper furniture. It was very descriptive, talking about how to easily replicate the honeycomb pattern, using craft paper specifically, alternative shaping, how to make larger pieces like walls more stable, and how to fireproof it with a borax solution. In a half hour at home I made a stool, worked perfectly. If I wanted to make a business around this, I would probably only have to call them about licensing.
I think the tact that it is hardware might make it a different game. When viewing patents on circuit design or specific hardware devices, there are usually circuit diagrams and drawings. In general, hardware patents have a lot more reproducable specifics internally than software patents.
I read it about 6 months ago, it will give you some clarity of thought about these matters. And apart from the odd gratuitous computer metaphor it is quite minimal -- you could probably use it as a reference if necessary.