Patents are the rotten apple in the software industry, this is even much more so for Open Source developers. Recently we have been bombarder all over the net about the MS vs. TomTom case, which resolves around a 'long filename' patent in FAT. Nobody is sure what the real reason for the lawsuit is; is MS targetting Linux (which TomTom uses on their devices), do they want to destroy a competitor or both?
I'm not really a big fan of ZDNet, but it's hard to completly ignore them. Today i read this article which is pretty much spot on. I suggest you read it too. On the 'No Software Patents' site you can read a famous quote from Bill Gates from 1991;
"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today."
Next on James Huggins site you'll read the following from MS' VP of Legal (from 1994);
"Microsoft has never initiated an action for patent infringement. We have, however, unfortunately been the defendant in several lawsuits involving software-related patents. The defense of those suits has consumed considerable of our resources, resources we'd prefer to use in positive and constructive research and development efforts."
It's aparently easy to forget your own past.