You've seen the topic of patent infringement in the news. Should you be worried? If you are, here's some things to do that should minimize your risk.
If your product needs a component that is patented, you have two options. One is to buy that component from the patent owner or from an official licensee. Why? It carries an implied license. The other option is to contact the patent owner and negotiate a license, in which case fees may be small.
What if there's nothing out there like your product, how will you know if you should worry? You can do a right-to-use patent search. This is different from a normal patentability search, because you're not worried about patentability – you're worried about infringement. In a right-to-use patent search, you will search for patents that are expired, meaning more than 17 years old. If you can find the component or feature that is of interest, then you can rely on it and have a right-to-use. For a quick and easy patent search, try going to any patent site that allows searching, such as the official uspto site or Google® patents.
When in doubt, you'll need advice from a real patent attorney. Not an agent, not a search firm, but a registered patent attorney – only a registered patent attorney can give actual legal advice in this field. The official uspto site has a listing of registered patent attorneys. Of course, nothing herein should be considered to constitute legal advice.
The author is a patent attorney with over 28 years experience in patents and trademarks. For further information, please email at IP1lwyr@gmail.com, or call at 877-654-3336.