A disclaimer: I am not a patent lawyer, nor do I play one on TV
The ideas shared here are my own, not IBMs (Though my two decades of employment there may have colored my thinking)
My main point/Question: Is it Patents that are evil or just Unreasonable Patents???
O.K., while I agree that patents are sometimes too broad, there is something to be said for protect one's intellectual property. As a former IBM engineer with my name on two patents, I've had some experience with this topic. IBM, for example wanted to have a large, valuable, patent portfolio for business reasons. Specifically, it was to protect their ability to innovate and engineer products without being overly concerned with infringing others' patents. This occurred fairly often and there was always some little inventor waiting to soak IBM for a patent he/she/it held. Often these patents were valid and the inventor deserved to be compensated. Sometimes, like the examples given above, they were overly general and ridiculous in scope (or obvious to any skilled practitioner of the art). Sometimes IBM could point to holding a patent which covered the idea in question or point to "prior art" which made the Patent in question less general or restrictive. I am aware of relatively few examples of IBM going after people/organizations using patents from their portfolio in general use. There is much that can be said to justify these actions. Although, such protectionism did exist, it's worth noting that most of IBM's competitors had cross licensing aggreements with IBM, so the issue was often moot. Additionally, IBM ,like all technology based companies, used it's own extensive patent portfolio as a bargaining chip in inter-company negotiations. To my knowledge IBM was always willing to allow patent use for a"resonable" fee. The legal department seemed more hard nosed about trademark infringements than patents.
Intellectual Property is a valuable asset and inventors (individual or corporate) deserve to have their ideas Protected. Theft of IP (intellectual Property is a real concern for those who deal in ideas. The Patent System was intended, in part, to ensure that good ideas get published, protected for a limited time, and then become public domain in order to foster better communication of ideas (as opposed to being hidden away forever as Trade Secrets.
The real problem is not patents per se, but the woefully understaffed, under-funded, patent office, which is sometimes so overloaded and so far behind the times that they can't recognize a good idea, or, they grant a patent to an obvioius, trivial, or overly broad idea, thus stifling the very process it's intended to promote and protect.