April 17, 2012 | By Julie Samuels

Twitter's IPA Is a Powerful New Tool in the Patent Wars

Today, Twitter announced the Innovator’s Patent Agreement (“IPA”), an important tool in the fight to improve a broken patent system. They've posted the agreement to the collaborative development platform GitHub and are looking for feedback. It's become clear that traditional patent approaches just don’t make sense when we’re talking about software, so we’re encouraged to see Twitter’s efforts to let people take matters into their own hands.

The IPA is simple: if you assign your patent to Twitter, Twitter promises it won’t use that patent to sue anyone, except for defensive purposes. So, for example , unless a party sues Twitter first, Twitter won't use the patent in a lawsuit. The IPA also provides the inventor who assigns her patent with tools to ensure that the patent is not used offensively in a suit even if a totally different party owns it down the line.

To be clear, what we really need are fundamental changes to the patent system. Unfortunately, Congress and the courts have failed to make that happen. In the meantime, Twitter’s IPA gives companies and inventors the means to take control of their own fate by ensuring that their patents will not end up in the hands of a troll. We hope that other companies will follow Twitter’s example, and find creative ways to engage with the patent system.

The IPA is not the only exciting development in this space. We’re also watching plans for a defensive patent licensing scheme, and we'll be reporting more about that soon. What’s most exciting, though, isthat folks are starting to realize that if we want the system to work for us, we’ll have to do it ourselves. We look forward to helping these plans become realities and getting bad software patents out of the way of innovation.


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