@AC 19:53 Re: Good Ideas
"buying patents they didn't develop and then using them against business rivals"
*If* the patent system worked properly it would not be possible to use patents in this way.
The ideal behind patents is that someone invents something, gets the patent, others can't copy without a license. The practical reality is that patents are awarded for the most trivial "inventions" these days with very little regard for what has actually been done before. This is leading to many companies having overlapping sets of weak but apparently enforceable patents, so war breaks out. The Venn diagram of companies and their patent holdings must look like a whole load of frothed up bubble bath.
The US patent system is truly dreadful in this regard, but I'm not sure that anyone else's is very good either. The problems were built in at the start. Surely it doesn't take a super genius to spot that the prior art checking process was only going to grow exponentially. Then the US made life LOTS harder for itself by allowing software patents....
The only way to fix the system is to tighten up on what 'invention' actually means, specifically in relation to triviality, the invention 'date' and commercial realisation. That should then be retrospectively applied to all patents when a dispute is initiated by an offended company. I imagine that the majority of disputes would evaporate in a puff of smoke. A whole lot of lawyers will of course strongly lobby against such a move, so it's up to the politicians to think for themselves and see what harm is being done to their economies.
But I think you're right; all these companies are behaving in an entirely logical manner given the patent system that exists. I would like to think that some of them are thinking "why is this happening really?" and will become motivated to lobby for a change. At the moment it looks to me like all the leading companies will be run by patent law experts instead of people who actually know stuff and build things :-(