This PC World article reiterates yet again the...lack of quality, shall we say, in some recently granted patents, and the reasons behind it:
The patent office faces a perfect storm: According to USPTO commissioner John Doll, the greatest number of new patent applications are for business processes or computer hardware and software innovations. And the former is one of the most difficult types of patent to evaluate.
"We do not have the ability to examine all the new cases that are being filed, and that's especially true in the high-tech areas," Doll says. The USPTO started 2005 with a backlog of 500,000 new patent applications, and ended the year with a backlog of nearly 600,000.
Examiners are supposed to evaluate applications against "prior art"--similar, earlier inventions. But in areas like software, "it's impossible for everyone to have their hands on every relevant piece of art" in the given time, says Kappos.