My friends and I wanted to create an online advertising service that would allow someone to create an advert, pay a one time fee, pay per click of the ad and have the ad displayed on our site and the sites of people that want to get paid by incorporating this ad on their site. We noticed that this was very similar to Google's Ad System and I was wondering how I could be 100% sure that we weren't interfering on anyone's (especially Google's) patents. I've googled google's patents and I haven't found anything but I'm still not sure.

What should I do to be 100% sure and get the go ahead?

  • Also, is this the only way to implement an ad system? If so, then you're in luck.
    – Pacerier
    Oct 10, 2015 at 21:53

4 Answers 4


There are lots of approaches here. The only one that satisfies your 100% criteria is to give up and go home. I.e., none of the approaches are satisfactory. However, your risk here is probably relatively much less than other entrepreneurial risks associated with this venture.

(1) you can conduct a freedom-to-operate search that will perhaps get a relatively good answer for you. One problem is that this won't uncover all patent rights that might have an impact. Another problem is that your actual software implementation will be much more specific that what you stated above. Although the general idea that you stated above might not infringe anyone else's patents, your particular implementation might actually infringe someone else's patents.

(2) Some folks like to obtain patent protection on their own approach with the idea that their own patent serves something like proof that their approach is new (and thus doesn't infringe any one else's patents). While this idea has some logical appeal, I have never seen it accepted by a court of law.

(3) You can obtain business insurance that will cover you in case you are found liable for (non-willful) patent infringement. You insurance may require that you use additional caution.

(4) Your company is unlikely to be sued for patent infringement unless you become a business success or threat. When you are sued for patent infringement, you should take that lawsuit as a badge of honor and respect. While a handful of companies have been put out of business by patent infringement charges, most of the time these cases settle and you go about your business with a little less profit.

Bottom line: Yes, it is fine to spend a bit of time making sure you are avoiding infringing other's patents, but the real focus of a new venture needs to be on how to make an excellent product and how to sell that product.

  • 1
    You forgot under problems with a freedom to operate search that it will cost an arm and a leg. ;)
    – Luis
    Oct 8, 2012 at 22:40
  • Yes - a quality FTO search and analysis is expensive. Oct 17, 2012 at 16:10
  • @DennisCrouch, Your answer basically states "Just do it". But doesn't a startup founder (who isn't protected by business structures that give limited liability like LLCs) risk getting sued to bankruptcy?
    – Pacerier
    Oct 10, 2015 at 22:27

I am not a lawyer but my suggestion is do not bother.

  1. It is the patent holders responsibility to defend their patents. By searching you are doing their job for them.

  2. I would say that it is impossible to be 100% sure you do not infringe. Patents are written to cover a broad range of uses; because of that I would guess that very little software is written that does not infringe on some patent.

  3. If you are doing good enough to get Googles attention they may just buy you out rather than fight patents :)

  • "may" is the keyword. They may also sue you to bankruptcy.
    – Pacerier
    Oct 10, 2015 at 22:30

There are many pay-per-click advertising networks. Google AdWords isn't the only one. They may quite possibly hold patents on some details of their particular implementation, but if you step on their toes you'll probably find out quickly enough. ;)


A patent is a very strategic legal document. The skill in drafting a patent results in broad, enforceable rights that encompass a wide range of variations to your invention. What this means is that someone can’t change a bolt, dimension, or other small design feature and get away with stealing your invention. A patent is initially drafted with very broad legal rights (claims). The USPTO will make us narrow these rights in the prosecution phase. This “over claiming” and then narrowing is known as prosecution and ensures that you receive the absolute broadest, strongest, and valuable rights possible. If there were no prosecution then it means you could have had stronger rights than you actually received. Keep in mind that having a patent is not what matters; rather, having a strong, enforceable patent that cannot be easily stolen is what matters. A weak patent may turn out to offer minimal to no actual rights or value.

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