I want to create an app for the Ipad which uses "videoconferencing" technology, very similar to what skype does.
How do I know if that is patented?
What happens if it IS patent protected and I use the technology anyway. I am a mom and pop app designer with zero budget for this!
The only way to know is to file for the patent yourself, and even then it's possible that there is a conflicting patent that could be taken to court.
Really, you shouldn't worry too much about it at this stage (NOTE: NOT A LAWYER). If your app is super successful, and you are making a lot of money, the sharks will smell blood in the water. At that point you may be forced to pay a large fee to "license" the patent. Realistically they won't hunt after you until you are worth hunting after, and then they only want what they feel is their share.
Unfortunately this is the reality of the software patent system in the US. If you can code it, money is someone has already has the patent, or something obscure and luckily close enough to sue you anyways.