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I know the software patent is a hot topic and is very frustrating. But as I live in the US I don't think I have any choice but to deal with it.

What I'm wondering is if there are actually companies or a site where I can look up what patents might apply to my idea. Then, be able to license the appropriate use of the idea even if the patent is vague and ambiguous. Then, if a troll comes after me I can argue that I'm protected under the use of patent#XYX.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

As always with legal questions, you should talk to a lawyer. My advice, however, is to not even look. Even if you license every patent which could conceivably apply to your product, and there will likely be hundreds of them, someone else could still sue you for violating a similar patent. Your licenses might give you more ammunition in court, but they would by no means make you immune from a lawsuit. What's worse, though, is that if it can be shown that you knowingly infringed on a patent, the damages should you lose the case will be substantially higher. Thus, looking at existing patents might result in more financial liability rather than less.

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