I see stories like this and get pretty angry. The largest companies are doing themselves, and the American programmer, a disservice with this blind attention to software patents. Obviously, as an open-source programmer, software patents make no sense to me. Code is protected by copyrights. If you have competitors, beat them on implementation, or service. Playing the big-bad patent card is an admission that you can't compete otherwise.
I'd like to think that companies are pursuing defensive software patents ... but if big software companies (including IBM, Microsoft and Sun) really wanted to do something good for the American IT industry, they would work to end software patents entirely. These companies have big, big political muscle (because that's what money is), and if they wanted to accomplish such a goal, they could.
The fact that they don't do more than maintain the status quo (and funnel bushels of money to the lawyers) says that they are afraid of competing fairly. Meanwhile, which each frivolous, obvious patent the ability of the entire software world to create something without being paranoid about a cease-and-desist arriving in the mail arbitrarily erodes ... and with it, a fractional amount of our competitiveness, individually and as a country.