Twitter introduces Innovator's Patent Agreement
Twitter has introduced the Innovator's Patent Agreement (IPA), an alternative patent assignment agreement for companies and employees which "keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers". Traditionally, when an employee develops a patentable invention, although their name is on the patent as inventor, they assign all the rights of the patent over to the company.
The Twitter IPA on the other hand, only allows the company to use the patent defensively, in response to patent litigation from another company. Patents under the IPA could only be used in offensive litigation with the written permission of the inventor or inventors, and that requirement is embedded with the patent so, if it is sold, the requirement to get that permission is passed on to the purchaser.
The Twitter IPA is at version 0.95, indicating it is not a final version, and already concerns have been raised that the definition of defensive use may be flawed or too broad. For example, clause 2c says a defensive purpose can include being used to "otherwise to deter a patent litigation threat against Assignee or Assignee’s users, affiliates, customers, suppliers, or distributors" – this may be considered as too broad by some. By hosting the IPA on GitHub, interested parties can raise issues or suggest modifications using a pull request.
Twitter plan to use the IPA internally later this year and apply it to all its patents, including those licensed and granted in the past. It is also looking to discuss the IPA with other companies and see if "it might make sense for them too". The IPA is itself is published under a Creative Commons CC BY 3.0 licence.