The problem isn't the lack of information about prior art.
The problem is that until such information is referenced in a patent
application, it does not exist in the legal archive patent lawyers are
required to search in order to grant a patent application.
Imagine the Patent office suddenly lost or destroyed all records
related to semiconductors, from the first diodes and transisters, to
the high level design logic.
Then, imagine that anyone could file a patent application to claim
ownership of any of these ideas developed over the last 50-60 years,
and to claim total ownership and control of those ideas for the next 20
years. Now, imagine that unethical lawyers began digging up technical
archives and patenting them on behalf of anyone who could form a
chapter S corporation, which would include that lawyer as a partner.
Before long, you would have thousands of little 3 person corporations
claiming to own everything that has any kind of electronics in it, and
demanding payments for the use of their brilliant inventions.
It becomes a war of attrition. With thousands of lawyers, all working
for contingency, going after them for $billions, then offering them
settlements for $millions, the cost could be hundreds of billions.
The claims are bogus, but the cost of defending against these frivolous
lawsuits, which are based on undeserved patents, exceeds the cost of
settlements. SCO papered IBM with discovery demands, costing IBM
nearly $300 million. Even if SCO lost the preliminary judgement, there
is no way that SCO could pay back even the base legal fees. SCO, who
only had to request information, spent less than $20 million.