I've been reading Guy Kawasaki's books recently, in particular, Enchantment, Reality Check and Rules for the Revolutionaries. He has only disdain for patents. He believes that entrepreneurs who rely their defence on patents alone are "clueless," and that patents are good only to impress one's parents.
Even before that, I've read that patents is a game only for big corps with deep pockets to fight their litigation wars.
I almost despaired whenever I read such stuffs because I had so many things to patent, to protect ;-)
On the other hand, if you choose to play in stealth mode, holding all your cards close to your chest, all the gurus say you will see a corpse in any mirror. That is, your business is not breathing at all.
In this dilemma, I was relieved to read an interview with the founder of NeuSoft of China.
He said that as soon as he put his software to the market, the rivals copy-catted it in no time.
Gradually, he wised up.
Now he no longer tries to protect a huge idea but produces a multitude of ideas both big and small.
Now he no longer worries about protection but concentrates on monetization of his ideas and faster execution of them.
Since China is one of the most competitive markets in the world, we all may be able to learn from their experience.