Taking on the trolls

Twitter put “Innovator’s Patent Agreement” into practice

Elliot Bentley
twitter-patent-agreement1

Pull-to-refresh patent no longer allowed to be used for offensive lawsuits without creator Loren Brichter’s permission.

Twitter
have applied
their ‘Innovator’s Patent Agreement’ for the first time, in an
attempt to safeguard their innovations from being used in
aggressive lawsuits.

The IPA prevents offensive use of patents without
explicit permission from the individual creator. It was written in
part as a response to “patent trolls”, companies that exist purely
to monetise existing patents (and now make up
40% of all patent infringement lawsuits
) – but also farcical
legal battles such as Oracle and Google’s lengthy spat.

The first patent to
have the IPA applied is pull-to-refresh, the clever UX feature
pioneered by Twitter client Tweetie (which later became the
official client). Since then, it has adopted by the majority of iOS
apps – including, as of iOS 6, Apple themselves – despite Twitter’s
ownership.

Tweetie developer Loren Brichter, who was also behind
smash hit iOS game Letterpress, is listed as the patent’s sole
creator. As per the IPA, his permission will be needed “to assert
the patent for anything other than a defensive purpose” – even if
it ends up in the hands of another company.

When
first announced
last April, a draft of the agreement was
hosted on
GitHub
and has gone through a
number of changes
. Twitter’s use of the IPA presumably means
that the company believes it is ready for use, though it remains to
be seen if it will be applied to its other patent,
which defines a method of “recommending electronic messages in a
message sharing system” (aka
Twitter itself
).

The EFF have praised the initiative,
describing
it as a “powerful new tool”, albeit no substitute
for “fundamental changes to the patent system”.

Others pledging to apply the agreement to their own
patents include Stack
Exchange
, Tell Apart,
Jelly and Lift. However, until the majority of software
patents are placed under the IPA – and assuming it stands up in
court – software patents are likely to continue being an
industry-wide nuisance.

Photo by Keith
Burtis
.

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