We're in the process of designing a web application and discovered a patent that lays claim to many basic web technologies that we are planning to use (like passing simulation data from a server to a client).
We're rather disheartened to read over this patent because the claims are so broad.
We do know that the company that holds this patent is the only player in its market space and has attempted to file lawsuits against anyone developing similar product.
How should we proceed with the design of our web application - should we hire a lawyer to give us a clearance opinion that maps out our application against the patent in question?
What worries me in your story is the fact that the competitor has been very aggressive on the legal front. That's major bad news. I assume you don't have the resources to fight any kind of law suit, correct?
Don't take this personally but it doesn't sound like you're a patent lawyer. I am not a lawyer but I do know that there is an art to reading patents and when non-patent lawyers try to read them, they often misunderstand what is protected and under what conditions.
By all means if the technology covered is fundamental to your business and there is a risk of litigation, consult a lawyer.