In an industry where patents are used as weapons rather than a protection of intellectual property, social media giant, Twitter, has announced a somewhat neutral stance vowing to never use the company’s patents as a weapon. This came about when it was discovered that the pull-to-refresh feature found on apps like Facebook is actually a patent owned by Twitter. Given the nature of the patent wars and the rivalry between the social networking giants, many had expected Twitter to take Facebook to court over that. Alas that will never happen thanks to a newly launched initiative dubbed the “Innovator’s Patent Agreement”.
According to Twitter:
The IPA is a new way to do patent assignment that keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers. 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.
This is a significant departure from the current state of affairs in the industry. Typically, engineers and designers sign an agreement with their company that irrevocably gives that company any patents filed related to the employee’s work. The company then has control over the patents and can use them however they want, which may include selling them to others who can also use them however they want. With the IPA, employees can be assured that their patents will be used only as a shield rather than as a weapon.
A pretty cool move on Twitter’s part. Perhaps tech giants such as Apple and Samsung could take something away from this.