I've had lawyers give exactly the same advice as frob. Take the "Sgt Schultz" approach to patents. (ask your parents, or Google it )
You can have "willful" patent infringement or "not willful" infringement
If you unwillingly infringe on a patent (i.e. you just did your thing and it turns out you happened to infringe), of course the patent holder can be entitled to reasonable compensation.
However if you willingly infringe (you made your thing, knowing full well that what you were doing was patented by someone else), the patent holder can be awarded up to triple damages.
That's why a lot of companies have policies that their engineers not look at patents.