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Ask HN: How do startups avoid violating patents?
6 points by dear on Nov 5, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 7 comments
Hello, I have been contemplating the idea of building an App/web business. But there have been enough news about companies getting sued for violating patents that makes me think again! There are so many patents that basically cover every aspect of everything. I know not all of these lawsuits are legit but as a small startup there is really no resources to research what technique/algorithm/technology is patented or not, and any lawsuit can easily kill a startup. So how do the majority of startups avoid being dragged into these patent problems?

This doesn't really answer your question but there is a huge problem with software patents and it is out of control. Here is a good article on wired about it http://www.wired.com/opinion/2012/11/richard-stallman-softwa...

Any patent assignee will have to notice you in order for there to be any trouble. Getting noticed is usually a sign of "you've made it" success, and it's that success that should motivate you, not fear of someday making $9M instead of $10M, causing you to make $0.

In a more specific fashion, patents are just like many programming environments- you can read up on them from the comfort of your laptop. Google.com/patents is a great resource. Spend a few hours over the course of a week typing in search terms related to what you're doing, and justify to yourself why each and every patent that comes up isn't doing what you're doing. (Remember, patents expire, so even if what you're doing has been invented and patented, it might be free to exploit anyway).

Thanks! That's just awful! As a startup I need to hire a patent lawyer to constantly search for possible infringement in my work. I wonder how thousands of startups cope with this situation. Or do they just ignore the elephant in the room? A startup depends on innovations and new ideas to thrive but your new ideas may have already been patented by somebody else which effective kill your lifeline. Does anyone know how the majority of startups cope with this situation?

You cannot afford to worry about patents now. Just avoid them altogether.

Also, just don't look anything up, or send emails to your co-founder / or anyone else specifying any patents. Because if you will get sued, you will have to disclose those emails in discovery. And violating a patent knowingly is a whole different story than violating it unknowingly.

Realistically, you can't worry about it. There's patents on almost anything you might try to do in software, and especially as a small company all you can try to do is avoid any ones you know are being actively trolled.

Great read about this topic from pg:


I feel a lot better now! :-) So it's not something to worry about at this stage.

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