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I've been working on an app/website that I planned to sell for iPhone and Android, but recently found a patent that describes the idea almost exactly. There are currently no apps that implement this idea, and the patent is 2 years old.

I will be talking with a patent attorney, but before I do, is there really any option for me to release this app if the attorney deems our 2 ideas alike? Could I:

  1. Make the app free using ads
  2. Make the app completely free with no ads, therefore no revenue generated
  3. Open source the app

Even if I make nothing on the app, is there still a way for me to release it without the worry of being sued? I really like the idea and want to make it.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If your patent attorney determines that your idea is the same as the other patent - you WILL be liable for infringement of the patent. It doesn't matter if you charge for it or give it away for free - it is an infringement. Now if you have noble intentions of release, you may want to contact the patent assignee and see if they are willing to grant you license to utilize their patent for the betterment of humanity - or even a revenue share if you intend to sell it. But if the idea is protected by the patent, you really cannot create a marketable product from it without the patent holder's permission.

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You have to keep in mind that patent litigation is very expensive for plaintiffs (and defendants) and very few cases have been filed against individuals who are not making money from their infringing activities. Further, in litigation, a substantial number of patents are proven to be invalid, unenforceable, or not infringed. –  Dennis Crouch Oct 17 '12 at 1:24

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