I thought I had posted a followup but apparently I don't know how to use the comment system properly. Sadly, I think it may have clarified my wording.
I think the full quote justifies my belief, but allow me to try to paraphrase my lost response: Software patents are a fact of life for software companies doing business these days. Bill Gates' position is actually the responsible one in the business environment we're living in: the only defense against a software patent claim is to have a large collection of patents yourself - a patent form of mutually assured destruction. The result of this is an oligarchy or an (unintentional) software cartel, but that's due to a bug in the legal system, not Microsoft's behavior wrt patents.
My comment was in relation to Novell's patents - this new company (after the merger and likely IPO in a few years) appears to be a software company, and thus would be in need of a patent portfolio. I also had a rant/warning about patent trolls because they don't participate in the cartel - they, producing nothing, have no need for patent agreement pacts or other legal defense.
[Pondering ... I'm not sure right now if software patent trolls are a long-term good influence or not at this point ... I'm thinking that patents are rarely enforcable against non-commercial infringement. It seems like OSS (GNU-style, anyway) may be effectively exempt. OSS companies, though, are for-profit. They're also easy targets for the trolls to hit first to establish their legitimacy. Thoughts for another day ...]
But back to the point: Gates' words are clearly reactionary, and not of a "here's how we use this to win" nature - they're "here's how we don't get killed". The man is afraid of patent suits not only from competitors, but also from his own customers.