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24 May 2013, 12:27

Twitter puts patent agreement into practice

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Patents Open icon Twitter has put its previously announced defensive patent plan into action, applying its Innovators Patent Agreement (IPA) to US patent 8,448,084. The IPA was introduced by Twitter in early 2012 as a way to keep companies from using patents assigned to them offensively by agreeing with the creators of the patented technology to only use them defensively. Under the agreement a company wishing to use a patent offensively would have to get the written permission of the creator to do so. These provisions also hold if the patent is sold on to another company.

Twitter posted the draft agreement on GitHub for comment last year and has now refined it such that an IPA 1.0 document and associated FAQ are available and are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence so that other companies can make use of them.

According to Twitter's Legal Director, Benjamin Lee, they have already been told that Lift, Stack Exchange, Jelly and TellApart will be adopting the IPA. The EFF cautiously welcomed Twitter's agreement saying that, despite "adding one more twig to the thicket of software patents", it was a "strong signal that a company remains committed to competing in the marketplace rather than the courts." The recently granted Twitter patent in question is one developed by Loren Brichter who created a "Pull to refresh" UI mechanism.

Brichter told The Verge that he hoped the IPA "becomes the de facto standard for hiring – engineers could demand this in their contracts". Agreements such as the IPA would also be an alternative for open source developing companies who wish to have defensive patents without making the patent available royalty-free, though the existence of patents could conflict with some open source licences or standards processes.



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