Patents are a great thing when they cover some innovative mechanical process that is not obvious in nature. They can also be a great thing for certain algorithmic processes if that algorithm took a lot of thought and work to come up with. Patents that cover the positions of pixels on a screen however are totally bogus. Todays news about Apple being liable to pay 600 million dollars for the infringement of patents that describe Cover Flow etc are ridiculous!
In the same way that patents which might cover a certain sequence of my D.N.A, patents which ultimately concern the colour of certain pixels on a screen are totally frivolous. Compettition to greate great UI is a great goal for designers of good software but to patent the positioning of a button or the method of a user interface is too much.