Basics of Patents
Patents are legal monopolies for the manufacturing of an item (or business process) in exchange for public disclosure. The US Patent Office (USPO) conducts a review of patent applications and validates that the work is unique. Anyone can search the USPO for filings and see all the materials that were provided as proof of the unique design or function.
Repair, tinkering, and fiddling with patented items has always been legal. If repair and tinkering weren’t legal, there wouldn’t be any DIY of any kind. We wouldn't have anyone building a better mousetrap or starting a new businesses based on small or incremental innovations.
Infringement of patents requires manufacturing of the patented item without permission. When it comes to digital electronic components, this is difficult to do without investing billions in a factory. Electronic patents are functionally impossible to infringe at the individual level.
There are problems looming related to 3-D printing. This isn’t yet a problem for repair of electronics but the technology is already capable of manufacturing plastic parts such as gears used in printers. For most of the electronics repair community – patents are not yet a consideration.