Recently, Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft and worth roughly the GDP of Jamaica) filed a patent infringement lawsuit against most of Silicon Valley. The Defendant's list reads like a who's who of modern technology giants: Apple, Google, Facebook, eBay, AOL, Netflix, Yahoo, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, You Tube (not listed: Microsoft).
The patents at issue extend back to the late 90s when Allen's now defunct company, Interval Research, was granted a number of patents dealing with e-commerce and search process. In fact, it was so long ago that Google wasn't even in existence when some of the patents were applied for. This is obviously a big deal for Silicon Valley companies as they struggle to work within the current patent system. The sheer number of defendants and the issues at stake has lead some to surmise that this could be the tipping point for software patents as a whole. Earlier this year, many were guessing/hoping that software patents would finally be invalidated in by the Supreme Court in the recent case, In Re Bilski, but that didn't happen. Obviously, an entire industry cannot constantly be fighting out their innovations in the court room because in the long run, it only ends up hurting consumers and stifling progress. So we'll see if this is actually a turning point in our current patent system or just another addition to our patent thicket. Stay tuned.