Interesting discussion, but it has slipped away from the interesting question: How do we fix the USPTO? The patent office is grossly understaffed and patent inspectors are often under-educated. The result is that far too many patents are accepted when they should be invalidated.
The suggestion that patents be limited to 500 a year is extreme, but it does recognize the essential problem that inspectors don't have the time to adequately vet applications. Another comment about the excessive generality of some patents is on the mark, but a great many patents focus on tiny points of remarkable triviality. These applications clog the system and really have no value for the company making the application because many alternative (and equally trivial) solutions often exist.
sranje: My Visor Phone played MP3s and browsed the web with a graphics browser, downloaded/played music, and books, and audible content...
My MPMan played MP3s and Audible content.
So, doesn't prior art prevent patenting these items as much as 5 years later?
Apple has every right to defend its IP and creativity.
We would all still use Nokia's "smartphones" -- without Apple's reinventing MP3s, phones, tablets, and ultrabook PCs
All glory to Apple - its enforcing product pre-launch secrecy and IP protection are fully understandable
All this about patent fights is like the gossip of the high-tech industry. I even think is something to be a shame of. Patent infringement by itself is evidence that company B has less wits than company A and that's why instead of innovating on it's on way and style it copies. But further, when one realizes the kind of things that are being patented, one can't help thinking that the USPTO is granting patents to very simple and lame things. This is perhaps talking about corruption as a comment above mentioned "persuading" to receive a patent. As any field in human society, being powerful sometimes allows for bending the rules in favor.
And, haven't you question if there's another reason behind the patent litigation? perhaps this is a way to affect in a side-way the competitor and ensure the position in the market. isn't it?
Most lawyers are naught but hired guns doing the biding of those who buy their services. It is the people that hire the lawyers to do the fighting and that run the companies and that buy the politicians and pervert the legal system to ensure their power and profits that need to be restrained who are the parasites.
The company is the one making the investment and providing the environment and the tools that enable the employee to be an inventor -- not to mention also paying the employee for doing that work.
But this is not the only reason that employers require employees to assign over all of their inventions that were created while employed at the company. Imagine that you invent something that if you quit your job and took your invention elsewhere, or started your own company, could do great harm to your previous employer's business. If they didn't own the rights to your patent, they would effectively have paid you and made an investment that was against their own best interest.
Repackaging is indeed patentable. In many patents, the claimed invention is an innovative combination of technologies that already exist -- and are individually patented -- such that the innovative combination enables a new application or a new solution to a problem.
I think the quality of the issued patents is the issue, not the quantity. If an innovation is truly unique and therefore patentable, then why stifle innovation by arbitrarily limiting these to a maximum number of patents per year? That's analogous to limiting your inbox to 500 messages. Some of those are spam, but there certainly are many valid messages too.