Twitter buys out 900 IBM patents

31 Jan 2014

Last November, Twitter disclosed in its IPO filing that IBM had sent a letter regarding possible infringement related to three IBM patents. So, today, the social network decided to buy out 900 of the computing giant’s patents.

The chances of Twitter accidentally infringing on an IBM patent would not be particularly surprising, given its position as the company with a record number of patents for the last number of consecutive years.

So it came as no surprise when the company let slip in its pre-initial public offering (IPO) document that it had supposedly infringed three of IBM’s many patents.

It is believed the three patents referred to in the letter sent from IBM to Twitter said Twitter copied IBM’s patents for ‘efficient retrieval of uniform resource allocators,’ ‘presenting advertising in an interactive service,’ and ‘programmatic discovery of common contacts’.

Mutual agreement

It would appear that Twitter sees it is a simpler solution to simply buy the rights to the 900 patents it now owns but the financial sum involved has yet to be disclosed.

In the release on IBM’s website, Twitter’s legal director Ben Lee said: “This acquisition of patents from IBM and licensing agreement provides us with greater intellectual property protection and gives us freedom of action to innovate on behalf of all those who use our service.”

Meanwhile, IBM’s general manager for intellectual property, Ken King, believes it’s an amicable agreement that he expects benefits IBM in the long term. “We are pleased to reach this agreement with Twitter because it illustrates the value of patented IBM inventions and demonstrates our commitment to licensing access to our broad patent portfolio. We look forward to a productive relationship with Twitter in the future.”

Amended 31 January, 7.19pm: This article has been amended to correct an erroneous statement claiming that IBM had launched litigation against Twitter for an infringement on a number of its patents. IBM did not launch litigation against Twitter and there was never a lawsuit involving these companies.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic