The patent system, especially in the US, is very broken, especially when it comes to software patents. There are plenty of companies that do nothing more than pile up patents just to sue others and then rake in huge amounts of money in settlements.
But, at last, there is some legislative initiative to fix it a bit. A patent law reform is not coming just yet, but there is a proposal to make a small modification to the current laws, which would have a great effect on one particular target, the patent trolls.
Specifically, this proposed amendment says that those sued over software or hardware patents can recover the money they spend defending themselves if the company suing "did not have a reasonable likelihood of succeeding."
Lawsuits costs are what patent trolls use as an extortion technique. Now, even if they lose, the company getting sued still has to pay huge lawyer fees, so they prefer to just settle and pay the troll something to go away.
The bill, should it become law, would fix or at least help with the patent troll problem. Pure "trolls," i.e. companies that exist only to sue others, would find life a lot more difficult or at the very least a lot less profitable.
But there's an even bigger problem than patent trolls, at least recently, as large companies are increasingly fighting each other not in the market but in the courts.
We've seen it with Google and Oracle and we've seen it with Facebook and Yahoo more recently. Google has won, so far, and Oracle went home empty-handed. But both Google and Oracle spent millions on lawyers and everything else related to the lawsuit. It's just begun too, Oracle will appeal so costs will continue to escalate.
Thankfully, Yahoo had the common sense to back out and reach a settlement with Facebook over their patent dispute, but that doesn't happen in many other cases. Microsoft for example is making a nice profit for itself going after companies that use Android in any form, an operating system it had no input in creating.