Techdirt has a useful article about how useful software patents actually are.
He points out that :
- companies will usually only patent stuff that would get disclosed anyway, relying on trade secret protection for the rest;
- Microsoft tells their employees to "never search, view, or speculate about patents", partly due to the worries over "willful infringement" and partly because you wouldn't learn anything from them anyway.
So if software patents aren't read by practitioners, don't disclose anything that wouldn't be disclosed anyway, and are written so as to be incomprehensible to those "skilled in the art", how can they possibly be a good thing ?