Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Twitter Vows Not To Aggressively Enter The Patent Wars

On Tuesday Twitter introduced the Innovator’s Patent Agreement an initiative proclaiming the company won't use Intellectual Property (IP) obtained from it's employees to entire into the patent wars that many tech giants are waging today.

In brief the Innovator’s Patent Agreement, (draft of which was released on GitHub), will allow inventors working with Twitter, or on Twitter projects to retain control of their inventions and their IP rights. It even applies retroactively to patents the company has already filed and still gives designers and engineers ultimate power even after they leave Twitter. With the IPA Twitter asserts it will not use the patents from employees’ inventions, or those previously acquired in offensive litigation without their permission and would only use those IP patents for defensive purposes.

Does It Really Mean Twitter Is Staying Out Of The Patent Wars?

At present it seems as though almost every major tech company is fighting a legal battle over IP and patents. Apple us suing just about everyone, Facebook and Yahoo are battling it out, Microsoft is always fighting a fight somewhere and Google, well they are just the new whipping post on the block.

From the post Twitter may seemingly be saying we are staying out of the patent battles. But are they? Lets take a closer look at the break down of what's behind the Innovator’s Patent Agreement.

First off, what does “Defensive” really mean?

Well at first glance one would say Twitter would only use their IP collection if another company aggressively sues them. That may be, however in this case (and most others) what is defensive and what is in the IPA is incredibly broad and allows for Twitter to interpret almost anything as a defensive use.

The draft agreement defines defensive purposes as follows:

Company, on behalf of itself and its successors, transferees, and assignees (collectively “Assignee”), agrees not to assert any claims of any Patents which may be granted on any of the above applications unless asserted for a Defensive Purpose. An assertion of claims of the Patents shall be considered for a “Defensive Purpose” if the claims are asserted:

(a) against an Entity that has filed, maintained, threatened, or voluntarily participated in an intellectual property lawsuit against Assignee or any of Assignee’s users, affiliates, customers, suppliers, or distributors;

(b) against an Entity that has filed, maintained, or voluntarily participated in a patent infringement lawsuit against another in the past ten years, so long as the Entity has not instituted the patent infringement lawsuit defensively in response to a patent litigation threat against the Entity; or

(c) otherwise to deter a patent litigation threat against Assignee or Assignee’s users, affiliates, customers, suppliers, or distributors.

Note paragraph "C". "To deter a patent litigation threat," this can be openly interpreted to mean they could offensively sue a company they think may be proposing action against them. That hardly seems defensive!

Secondly, "We will not use the patents from employees' inventions in offensive litigation without their permission."

The draft agreement states that:

If Assignee needs to assert any of the Patent claims against any entity for other than a Defensive Purpose, Assignees must obtain prior written permission from all of the Inventors without additional consideration or threat. An “Entity” includes any related entities, where the entities are related by either ownership, control, financial interest, or common purpose.

Clearly this leaves the door open for active offensive maneuvering. Twitter is simply stating they, with the blessing of the IP holder, can sue any company they feel is infringing upon their intellectual property just that they must seek approval of the IP holder before doing so.

This hardly put them in the position of sitting on the side lines, after all what inventor isn't going to want to protect their invention and their IP. Especially with the monetary concerns involved these day.

So while we applaud Twitter for what they are doing, and actually hope they are trying to set a tone that others may follow. I feel as though in the end this may be nothing more than empty gesture.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments will be moderate for content, please be patient as your comment will appear as soon as it has been reviewed.

Thank you