Companies put out patents all the time. It's the best way to get ahead of the competition while staying competitively rich. Sony has put out a crazy number of patents over the years and typically sees anywhere from 10-60+ a year. But the patent applied for on January 3rd was a bit more on the valid side.
With rumors swirling about in an vehemently overloading rush [see any number of articles to the right of this], PlayStation 4, as well as XBOX 720, is discussed on any number of video game websites daily. Each with their own take or down-the-pipe word-of-mouth news on Sony's newest venture. The patent applied for only fueled that rumor wildfire.
Said patent applied for would end companies like GameStop's good fortune as it would cease multiple ownership on one disc. Somehow future games would be linked to their buyer, either by magical disc technology or by linking a serial number of sorts to the buyer's profile.
GameStop makes more than 60% of its yearly revenue through the buying and reselling of gaming merchandise. Not only GameStop sees its fortune through used game sales, but the like of Mom & Pops stores will feel the reverberations through Sony's potential one-user disc.
The importance of a patent of that nature are the development companies affected by the resale business. Say if a game like Call of Duty sells a million copies within the first 48-hours and is traded 500,000 times: What do the developers see from the 500,000 copies resold? Nothing. Now, games like Call of Duty surely are unaffected by used game sales. But, what about companies like Atlus or Sega or Naughty Dog?
The used games business has been a bit of a hot button for developers for some time now and is linked to the reasoning behind the mountains of DLC available for almost every game released these days. Imagine, if you will, said small developer releases a game that [potentially] loses 1/3 of their game sales to the used game business, but can make up some of their revenue by adding DLC down the line, multiple times. Only half your game may be available at launch, but that might be due to your reselling.
Sony hasn't commented on their applied patent since there is nothing set as of yet [until it is confirmed, Sony considers their patents rumors.]. Consumers have a massive push in if this patent will see fruition. Why would Sony put their eggs in a very expensive basket if the consumer base was upset they couldn't use their discs over multiple systems and multiple profiles? In the end, we may be seeing a PlayStation 4 that runs on downloads and one-owner hard copy games.