Patents are treated very differently in the US compared to Europe. Basically almost anything gets patented in the US and the rule of thumb is to contest or defend and the larger the company the more likely they will take this approach because they can afford big legal teams. In Europe its tougher to be granted a patent because you have to prove to the patent offices you have unique IP. The battles between Apple and Samsung underline the different approaches between the US and Europe.
Having been involved heavily in patents, I find just the opposite. We (Our Company) had to defend ourselves from European patents that had been in common use world wide for 30 years, because there was poor or no checking of them in Europe. In the case of patents in the US, a very expensive patent search is undertaken, usually by a 3rd party company, and their report is considered by the patent office as due diligence.
I certainly agree that stupid patents are sometimes approved, but its usually a exception.
Where I worked, all of our designers and engineers were issued patent books where they could jot down ideas that came into their head while designing the product, then if they thought it was a unique and valuable approach, they added more detail, and called in the internal patent officer. He would help the inventor put the patent into proper form. Then it went to a patent committee who circulated it to experts in the field of the patent. I reviewed several a week that could have been submitted by anyone, be he a janitor or PHD, anyone can invent something valuable. As a reviewer, I made a presentation to the patent committee giving my opinion of the usefulness to the company. We did not file for patents unless they were of potential value to the company. If it was a good patent, but not something that the company would use, the inventor was given full ownership to patent it himself. If it sounded useful, and was unique or appeared to be, then it went to the patent search step where a careful search was made for similar patents. This can be very difficult, because the key words are not always obvious. Once all the hurdles were cleared, the patent application was submitted. Some people were avid inventors and had many patents, others never submitted inventions that should have been submitted. That cost the company many millions of dollars in one case. Our company invented the product but did not file for a design patent, and someone in Europe later filed a patent for a product we were already manufacturing.