Thom Holwerda over at OSNews is bit overzealous in his campaign against patent enforcement — he'll defend companies that are blatantly and directly copying Apple in ways that are totally unnecessary — but his list of suggested patent reforms has a lot of good ideas. Most notably, this:
Patent applications must be accompanied by a working prototype that must be presented, in person, by the inventor listed on the application, to the patent office. This makes it impossible to file patents on ideas that have not yet been implemented or productised, and will serve to greatly reduce the number of vague and/or bogus applications.
The payoff is clear: so-called “patent trolls,” whose main business is extorting money out of actually productive companies by patenting often obvious ideas and then waiting to find someone to sue, would have to either start being productive themselves or move on. In some sense I can see a working prototype requirement as being too steep for high tech patents, after all, an inventor may wish to have the protection of a patent before seeking manufacturing partners. On the other hand, perhaps a compromise would be to require those requesting a patent to produce a working prototype within a certain probationary patent window or face loss of the patent.
Similarly, Thom is right that software patents can be stunningly vague and that such overly broad patents should be rejected. Nonetheless, I do not think the solution is to eliminate software patents entirely, but require them to be restricted to a particular implementation of an idea, not a broad concept that can be achieved via many different methods.