This is my first post in 'Ask Patent', so pardon me if the question turned out to be very stupid. I am a PhD student working in nuclear medicine. Recently I had started working on a project. But soon I found that a group had done that work and it was patented. So I need to abandon that specific project. Now I am planning to work on the same problem - but the experimental setup will be different. In detail, the original idea they had patented will remain the same in my present detector system. Still, the implementation and optimization process will be different due to different geometry and different detector material used. Now, my question is - "Can there be any legal issue in a publication? Or do I have to buy the patent to work on the project mentioned above?"
Many people think patents protect much more than they actually do based on reading the body of the patent. What you need to focus on is the claims of the patent. To infringe on a patent you must implement each and every step specified in at least one claim. So if a claim states steps A, B, C and D and your implementation uses only A, B and C then you don't infringe because you don't implement D. However, if your implementation has steps A, B, C, D and E you would infringe because you implement the steps as specified in the claim.
In addition, you should look at the other patents listed as cited by the examiner because it is possible there are other patents that are also relevant to your research.