My concern is about patents applied to software, or "software patents". In brief:
Companies can be awarded patents for "methods" to do something in software. Over 18,000 patents are awarded each year for software.
This would be ok if the "something" were truly unique. However, today we find that many companies are awarded patents for things that are too broadly defined. The patent can apply to just about anything.
The result is that companies end up suing each other over these software patents, because the original patent was written to be so vague that it would be impossible to anything in a similar market without infringing on the patent.
Some companies have created a niche market where they buy the rights to a patent, build up a patent portfolio, then sue other companies. The problem has become so severe that American technology industry leaders, like Google, have to buy patent portfolios just to ward off patent litigation. Google's Senior Vice President & General Counsel recently wrote about doing just this:
We need a reform of the patent system, specifically for software patents. I am working to bring about software patent reform. I'll use this blog to capture some examples of Bad Patents.