Twitter agrees to only use patents defensively


18 Apr 2012

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Twitter has made an ‘Innovator’s Patent Agreement’ (IPA), which says it will only use its patents defensively and will not use patents from employees’ inventions to sue others without the inventor’s permission.

The agreement states that the company and inventor believes that software patents should only be used to make a ‘positive impact’ on the world and will only be used for defensive purposes.

These defensive purposes includes if someone has sued Twitter or its users, affiliates, customers, suppliers or distributors over intellectual property or patent infringements. They can also be used to deter a patent litigation threat against Twitter.

If Twitter wishes to sue another entity offensively using these patents, it needs to get prior written permission from the inventor. Twitter said it won’t force its inventors to give their permission if they don’t want to.

In a blog post, Adam Messinger, VP of engineering at Twitter, said the agreement states that even if these patents are sold to others, they can still only be used how the inventor intended them to be used.

The new agreement gives Twitter’s engineers more control over their patents and also aims to reduce software patent lawsuits which Twitter fears are being undertaken to "impede the innovation of others."

“Typically, engineers and designers sign an agreement with their company that irrevocably gives that company any patents filed related to the employee’s work,” said Messinger.

“The company then has control over the patents and can use them however they want, which may include selling them to others who can also use them however they want. With the IPA, employees can be assured that their patents will be used only as a shield rather than as a weapon,” he said.

The IPA will be implemented later in the year and will apply to past and present patents. Twitter will also discuss the IPA with other companies to see if they would consider implementing the IPA.