If you ever needed more proof on how broken the U.S. patent system is, take a look at this interesting newsbit. Another company hell-bent on making a profit by reselling IP has apparently started invoicing other companies for linking to pages through images. Yes, as simple as it sounds, that's what they are attempting to do. "Vuestar" as they call themselves was awarded a patent in 2006 that is terribly generic, claiming ownership over a method of "locating web pages by utilizing visual images".
As the article brings out, Google Image Search would be a blatant example of patent infringement, along with millions of other pages on the Internet, automated or not. They incorporate along with the patent a claim over locating pages using distributed computing, which is what the basis of modern search is based upon - from Yahoo to Microsoft to Google and more. With many high-profile companies (such as SCO) trying to bleed the world of cash by abusing IP, it's no surprise that small fry companies think they can do the same. Their site even goes so far as to say that even the telephone companies providing Internet access must pay for licensing simply for providing access. It's ridiculous, and I hope that as time goes on the utter absurdity of claims like these will force a new look at a patent system that seems more prone to abuse than anything else.