Twitter’s Innovators Patent Agreement

Point: “The Innovators Patent Agreement (IPA) is a new way to do patent assignment that keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers. It is a commitment from a company to its employees that patents can only be used for defensive purposes. The company will not use the patents in offensive litigation without the permission of the inventors. This control flows with the patents, so if the company sells the patents to others, the assignee can only use the patents as the inventor intended.”

Sounds like Twitter is trying to take a Creative Commons approach to patents. That would be a very good thing for the technology industry, which has been besieged by patent lawsuits and patent trolling in the last few years.

Counterpoint: Marco Arment notes, “the loophole potential is simply too great, and it doesn’t (and can’t) address the fundamental problems and dysfunction in the patent system.” Arment’s larger point is that Twitter has left themselves plenty of leeway when it comes to using its patents for defensive purposes.

Further, Arment asks, “even if all “Defensive Purposes” were restricted to patent litigation, what if it’s your perfectly valid, innovative patent that Twitter has willfully infringed upon, you sue them, and they countersue you with other patents that you didn’t even know about that seem obvious and invalid?”

Arment’s point seems to be that it’s a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough to actually address the systemic issues plaguing the technology sector right now. It would be nice to see a few companies with huge sway — like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple and Microsoft — get together and do something about patents because Congress doesn’t seem too interested in stepping in.

Then again, business is business and patents do affect the bottom line of profit margins so don’t expect any of the big companies to really do much about this either.

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