It's a bit of a shame what the industry is moving towards. There's still quite a bit of exciting things going on, but the fear of being sued by a competitor over rather generic ideas or methods, or companies' need to protect their own intellectual property even cover their own butts, gets a lot of focus and attention.
Not only that, but it gets a lot of money, too. Stanford University did an analysis of both companies when it came to acquiring patents and patent litigation and found that both Apple and Google have spent $20 Billion in the last two years. $20 Billion. Even though both companies make Billions of dollars every quarter and have a large surplus of cash to spend, that's still quite a bit of money.
The New York Times article also went on to talk about a number of different things, including how many patents each have acquired over the years. Since the year 2000, Google has received 2,700 patents while Apple has received 4,100. Interestingly enough in the whole patent game is that Microsoft has acquired 21,000 over that same time period.
Clearly, patents are a big part of the technology business. Holding the patent means revenue to come for ages and ages. The problem however is when more time and effort is put into patents than research and development. Great products and ideas are still being created by the likes of Google and Apple, but imagine what could become if they could focus a bit more on it.