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Twitter promises never to become a patent troll

Extends a patent agreement to staff
Wed Apr 18 2012, 09:55

MICRO BLOGGING SERVICE Twitter has proposed an innovative way of dealing with patents that could reduce the incidence, expense and disruption of patent litigation.

While other firms are sharpening lawyers and planning legal skirmishes in countries across the globe, Twitter is proposing a literally non-offensive approach that appears to show some promise.

The Twitter Innovator's Patent Agreement (IPA) appeared late yesterday, and in it the company reaches out to software developers and promises that it will never become a patent troll.

"Like many companies, we apply for patents on a bunch of these inventions. However, we also think a lot about how those patents may be used in the future; we sometimes worry that they may be used to impede the innovation of others. For that reason, we are publishing a draft of the Innovator's Patent Agreement, which we informally call the 'IPA'," said Adam Messinger, VP of Engineering in a blog post that introduced the idea.

"The IPA is a new way to do patent assignment that keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers. It is a commitment from Twitter to our employees that patents can only be used for defensive purposes. We will not use the patents from employees' inventions in offensive litigation without their permission. What's more, this control flows with the patents, so if we sold them to others, they could only use them as the inventor intended."

This is a different approach from that favoured by other firms like Facebook and Yahoo, for example, and Twitter knows it. "This is a significant departure from the current state of affairs in the industry," Messinger added.

The IPA is expected to be implemented later this year and will apply to all new and existing patents at Twitter. So far the idea has been welcomed.

Although the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) thinks that more needs to be done to fix the patent system, it said that this is an important move.

"Twitter's IPA gives companies and inventors the means to take control of their own fate by ensuring that their patents will not end up in the hands of a troll," the EFF said in a statement.

"We hope that other companies will follow Twitter's example, and find creative ways to engage with the patent system."

Twitter wants developers to engage with it on Github, the open source software release network. µ

 

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