The USPTO has just granted patent 7,739,139 to Amazon Technologies Inc for "Social Networking System " - grant date 2010-06-15, filing date 2008-05-27. This seems to imply that all social networking systems in the USA now have to start paying royalties to Amazon. Will Facebook, Linked-In, GitHub, Launchpad, etc., pay up or will someone fight this in the courts?
The obvious conspiracy theory here is that the lawyers in the USA are gaming the system so as to ensure maximal transfer of funds from clients to lawyers. Lawyers get paid for creating patents, whether or not they are sensible, and then get paid to battle out the subsequent litigation trying to decide if the patent is valid or even reasonable.
The other conspiracy theory is that USPTO is milking the system by allowing any and all applications to succeed and pocketing the money without doing any work, just waiting two years.
The only real conclusion here is that the USA patent system is broken. Let us hope that the UK and EU systems do not further descend into the same mess.