The Judge who tossed the Apple v. Motorola patent fight this summer has been blogging about patent proliferation. His comments are unusually well thought through (he is known for being a loose cannon).
Nowadays most software innovation is incremental, created by teams of software engineers at modest cost, and also ephemeral—most software inventions are quickly superseded. Software innovation tends to be piecemeal—not entire devices, but components, so that a software device (a cellphone, a tablet, a laptop, etc.) may have tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of separate components (bits of software code or bits of hardware), each one arguably patentable. The result is huge patent thickets, creating rich opportunities for trying to hamstring competitors by suing for infringement—and also for infringing, and then challenging the validity of the patent when the patentee sues you
And while the Ars coverage is focused on this I could not help but laugh when I read the following line:
He is traditionally regarded as a conservative, but he commented in July that “I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy.”