FutureFive New Zealand logo
Story image

Twitter says its patents are a shield, not a weapon

18 Apr 2012

While the CEOs of Apple and Samsung were agreeing to meet up to try and talk out their patent grievances, the folks at Twitter were drawing up a new policy pledging to use patents only for defence, not attack.

In a statement posted to coincide with Twitter’s quarterly Hack Week, in which engineers and designers are given free rein to work on new and innovative projects outside of their day-to-day duties, Twitter VP of engineering Adam Messinger says he and the rest of the team at Twitter have been thinking a lot about the patents they apply for, and how they may be used in the future.

"We sometimes worry that [the patents] may be used to impede the innovation of others,” Messinger writes.

"For that reason, we are publishing a draft of the Innovator’s Patent Agreement, which we informally call the IPA.”

Due to be implemented officially later this year, the IPA assures Twitter employees that their patents ‘will be used only as a shield rather than as a weapon’. 

"We will not use 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.”

While the IPA sounds like a positive move, it hasn’t convinced everyone, with Forbes writer Michael Kanellos saying that without being put to the test the IPA ‘smells like grandstanding’.

"Many [tech companies] are angry... about getting hit with vague and flimsy patent infringement suits,” Kanellos writes. 

"These suits stifle innovation, they claim. Yet very few companies denounce their own patent portfolios as insubstantial barriers on the road to progress. 

"In other words, patents are terrible, except mine.”

Do you think Twitter is breaking new ground in the patent war, or is the IPA an empty gesture? Post your comments below.