Question: Should entrepreneurs avoid patents, especially examining them, to avoid willful infringement and 3x damages down the road?
You should know that the word “patent” around this blog is a four letter word. Brad hates them and thinks most should be abolished. I’m not quite so forward-thinking, but I will tell you that I think the entire patent world is screwed up beyond belief. If anyone would like me to rant, leave a comment and I’ll post something later.
To answer your question, the answer is “yes” in my opinion. If you are simply hunting around to see what’s out there and you don’t currently have a company or idea, then there is probably no harm and no foul.
However, if you are engaged in a business, you should not be monitoring patents in your ecosystem for the very reasons that you bring up: knowingly infringing someone’s patent can lead to treble damages and attorney fees. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. If you happen to stumble upon something that you might infringe, you are in the unenviable position of what to do (answer: call your lawyer).