The only reason these codecs were patented, is because there was a possibility to do so (read: sweet sound of monopoly - ka-ching!). If that wasn't a possibility, they would still get invented just fine. And that's because they were required to get digital video going. Which was a requirement of _other_ industries, not (only) the software industry.
If anything, global financial crisis has shown how short memories we all have. Market will never crash again, house prices will never go down, blah, blah. Same thing here. Software was being written before it was protected by patents just fine. Innovation aplenty. The rest is just greed.