It does seem very pointless if they're not planning on doing Ultima remakes themselves. But who knows? It's their call, no matter how bad it might seem.
Did you read the linked article? The probable reason why they are now enforcing their copyright on Ultima 4 is because there is a project which in some way concerns Ultima 4 specifically nearing completion.
And sorry, I can't say more than that right now.
As to the copyright nature of Ultima 4, well, Origin (and later EA) never gave up their copyright; they granted a select few members of the Ultima Dragons (official Ultima fan club) permission to host the PC version of the game for download.
At some point, that download got re-posted on other Ultima fan sites, and/or in conjunction with Ultima-related fan projects; that was never something permitted under the original agreement between the Dragons and Origin, so it's not exactly reasonable to label EA the villain for cracking down on those violations. That they haven't done so before is a curiosity, I suppose, but I take it as further evidence that there is something brewing which concerns Ultima, and specifically Ultima 4.
In the end, Ultima 4 is still available freely online...but now only at the sites of those whom Origin originally gave hosting permission to. Two Flash-based remakes of the game have been taken down (one of which was a remake of a non-PC version of the game, which was even more obvious a violation since none of the non-PC versions of the game have EVER been released for free).
Neither of the NWN-based remakes of Ultima 4 have been taken down, none of the fan patches have been taken down, and none of the fan projects which require a user to own and point to a copy of the original game and its data files have been taken down. Which makes this a pretty tame act of copyright enforcement on EA's part, as such things go.