Mark Bridge writes:
There’s some kind of patent-related mobile technology story in the news most weeks. Whether this is the result of an innovation slow-down or the disruptive effect of newcomers on ‘traditional’ mobile manufacturers, there’s no denying it’s causing problems for many companies.
However, Twitter may have an answer. It’s just introduced what it’s calling the “Innovator’s Patent Agreement”, which includes a commitment that patents developed by its employees will only be used for defensive purposes. This level of control stays with the patent even if it’s sold.
In a blog post, Twitter VP of Engineering Adam Messinger said “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.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has added its support, describing the Innovator’s Patent Agreement as “an important tool in the fight to improve a broken patent system”.
Now, things aren’t necessarily as clear as you might expect. According to the IPA (which has been published online), companies that have taken any non-defensive patent action in the last ten years are fair game. And there are a fair number of other potential loopholes as well.
But this seems more than just a PR stunt. It’s a company saying it wants to win through innovation.
And for that, I wish them every success. Now, who’s next?