Companies have always tried their hand at something the sort of Pre-Emptive Patents.
These patents do not offer nay protection to currently developed products or any suggestions to what path their R&D guys are walking on. Rather, mostly patenting some ‘spark’ of the moment idea.
The problem with such ideas is that everyone gets such ideas. But after a while you realize that you aren’t the only one.
And when companies use their financial muscle to bulk-patent such ideas on a pre-emptive basis, it sucks for the rest of us who might have also gotten this idea, or who might be working on a derivative of this idea for a really ‘new’ product or service.

For example …Palm Smartphone device with folding screen patents a device with a foldable display that works as a pda in one mode and a cellphone in another.
Hmm, wonder who owns the patent for a combined digital CMOS and cellular radio device (digital camera and cell phone)???

I mean, c’mon …. USPTO, as everyone knows is a stupid agency with no real-world idea of what granting a patent could mean. If that were the end of the story, then I could live with it. But they are supported by the US Economic and Trade agencies 9whatever their acronyms be) which are really influential and powerful around the world.
It’s like having a stupid, weak-brained person make up ideas in his sick mind, then having his stronger sibling go around making sure everyone toes the line.

Bottomline: Sure Patents are a good thing. But for the right reasons. Not stupid pre-emptive patents that you never know will work out. I mean, what if PalmOne went bankrupt next year, then they would not be in a position to make the product (remember, what they have patented is a proposed product on a still-to-be-perfected type of display), but they would be in a position to sue others who have the funding and a continuing research.

On that link above, read 4th reply to the 1st comment – by lobotomic (dude, whats with the name?!)