Here's an interesting article I came across recently. Apparently the patent system is "dysfunctional" according to this judge.
He makes a good point. The types of patents that are being filed in this field are often really difficult to understand and are often granted for inventions that are dubious at best. In my experience, it can be much easier to get a patent for a software/electronic type invention than for a mechanical invention. The reason is simply that there is a huge amount of prior art easily available for use against mechanical inventions.
On the other hand, it can be extremely difficult to locate and assess software/electronics prior art. If you think this is inaccurate, just go to Google Patents and run a random keyword search, like "Database". You'll have a headache after reading 3 patents.
So my sympathies do lie, to some extent with patent examiners. We should also not forget that patent examiners do not get paid a fortune and are usually not as seasoned as the patent attorneys representing these serial patent filers.
What irks me are judges such as Robart (see article) that lambast companies like Microsoft and Motorola for doing what any company should do with whatever tools it has available. These people should be focussing on establishing better search and examination protocols for examiners, instead of lashing out at companies. After all, Microsoft, Motorolla, Apple and Google etc. have a duty to their employees and shareholders. It is not incumbent on them to improve the patent system.
Just my two cents....