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I am writing my first mobile-app that teaches a foreign language in a "chat-like" manner. Means, the user enters a chat and you learn the language by having a bot sending you individual messages.

You, as a user, can select answers accordingly. This type of app is not new. I saw hundreds of patents for chats, bots etc but I cannot read all of them, neither are chats nor bots new. How do app developers proceed at the stage where I am at?

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    One option at this point is to consult with a patent attorney. Aug 9 '18 at 16:58
  • They are too expensive for the volume of my app Aug 9 '18 at 18:02
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It depends upon how much money is at stake.

You could have a patent search done and consult a patent lawyer help you to evaluate your risk based upon the results. This would cost several thousand dollars but probably less than $10,000 (these amounts are much less than the cost of trying to get a patent for your app). If you do this and there is anyone who has an arguable infringement claim, you would ultimately have to decide for yourself, informed by the search results and your patent lawyer's advice, what to do.

Even in a low risk case, you might be sued. Even in a high risk case, the patent holder might decide not to sue you for some reason (patents of the kind you are worried about are weak and often don't hold up in court, about 50% of patent cases that go to trial end up finding that the patent is invalid and that would be higher with a patent of the type you are worried about, but of course, it costs money to go to trial so people often pay nuisance settlements to avoid litigation).

You could, instead, launch your app without a patent search and see if anyone sends you a cease and desist letter and then decide what to do from there, possibly consulting a patent lawyer at that point if necessary.

It only makes sense to search in advance if your investment and potentially profits from the app are significantly greater than the cost of the patent consultation.

If you've invested $100,000 in making the app and expect to make $200,000 of profits from the app, you should definitely confer with a patent lawyer up front.

If you've invested $1,000 in making the app and expect to make $2,000 of profits from the app, you should move forward until such time, if ever, as you receive a cease and desist letter from someone claiming to have a patent that covers your app.

Somewhere in between those amounts, what to do is a business decision and a judgment call.

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  • Thanks a lot! The numbers you are playing with are absolutely away from what I can spent or even get back from it. It's more a hobby project - still it's a proper app. In total I will probably earn less than 1000$, even if Aug 9 '18 at 18:01
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    I have seen rumors that some companies forbid patent searches, allegedly since if nobody searches a patent holder won't be able to establish wilful infringement easily, and wilful infringement carries higher judicial awards. Aug 9 '18 at 18:07
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I agree with the above answer. It seems that if you are not looking to invest more than a few thousand dollars, it seems worth your time to "risk" it and see if someone approaches you. "trolls" might just threaten nuisance suits - banking on that you won't go to court. They likely won't go to court either because they almost always enforce weak patents. However, legitimate patent holders - whether operating companies or NPEs - might send a cease and desist or license the patent to you. they often prefer to go to court as a last resort in enforcing their IP rights.

Seems your best bet is to get to the next phase, and then see if the legal fees will be worth your time or not.

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