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Twitter promises it will not become a patent troll

Zach Epstein
April 18th, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Twitter’s lead engineer confirmed in a post on the company’s blog on Tuesday that Twitter will not use its patents aggressively. “Patent trolling” is a strategy that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Companies with active product portfolios aim to stifle competition and protect their intellectual property by using patents offensively, and companies without active portfolios purchase patents from inventors and use the patent system as a core means of generating revenue. According to Twitter, the company is taking steps that will see it avoid both of these roads now and in the future. Read on for more.

In what he called the “Innovator’s Patent Agreement” or “IPA,” Twitter’s vice president of engineering Adam Messinger said that Twitter will take a unique approach to its patent catalog, keeping much of the control over its patents in the hands of the company’s engineers rather than the corporation.

“The IPA is a new way to do patent assignment that keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers,” Messinger wrote on Twitter’s blog. “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.”

Patent trolling and other weaponized patent strategies are viewed by many industry watchers as a huge barrier to innovation. The topic is a controversial one, however, because a number of companies that use patents aggressively are inventors rather than “trolls,” and they must be allowed to protect their intellectual property under the current patent system.

It remains to be seen whether or not other companies will follow Twitter’s lead, but the company’s IPA solution appears to be a step that will curtail aggressive patent strategies while also better acknowledging the efforts of individual inventors.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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