doom writes "You've probably already heard that the Nobel Prize for Economics was given to three gents who were working on advances in mechanism design theory. What you may not have heard is what one of those recipients was using that theory to study: 'One recent subject of Professor Maskin's wide-ranging research has been on the value of software patents. He determined that software was a market where innovations tended to be sequential, in that they were built closely on the work of predecessors, and innovators could take many different paths to the same goal. In such markets, he said, patents might serve as a wall that inhibited innovation rather than stimulating progress.' Here's one of Maskin's papers on the subject: Sequential Innovation, Patents, limitation (pdf).