Patents are very important — they help the small guys with really great ideas protect themselves. They give those people and companies a real chance in a world that’s dominated by large organizations that build their business on stealing great ideas. That said, holding a patent isn’t a sure-fire way to protect yourself, but it certainly helps.
When large companies use their portfolio of patents to squeeze out competition, however, it really should be considered anti-competitive. A good example of how patents shouldn’t be used is how Apple is trying flex their muscles to HTC, which is infringing their generic “multi-touch” patent. Thankfully for HTC, Google is on their side, and won’t let Apple have their way.
Most people would agree that the patent system is broken, and something has to be done about it. Most companies play nice, and don’t threaten legal action — in fact, patents are used as the proverbial “First!” in a lot of cases — bragging rights. Apple, for instance, has lots of patents that are really cool — like the one that makes tactile user input possible on a touch screen.
Perhaps Apple is afraid that they will not be able to innovate past multi-touch, and protecting their patent is the only way to ensure their future success.