Twitter is calling for an industry-wide armistice in the intellectual property wars. Today it announced the Innovator’s Patent Agreement (IPA), a pact that it will not use employees’ patents for offensive measures, but rather to protect itself when it is necessary.
Twitter is framing the IPA as an effort to continue the flow of innovation, a turn from the litigation gridlock that has pervaded the tech world lately.
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 IPA, which has been posted in its entirety on GitHub, will kick in later this year, and it will cover patents from current and past engineers at Twitter. On top of that, Twitter says it’s reaching out to other companies to get them on board.
Unless you’re taking copious notes, it’s difficult to keep track of the who’s battling who lately. Apple and Samsung, for example, have been duking in more than a dozen countries. Such skirmishes effectively keep products off shelves, like the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which was banned in Germany back in January. But it’s not just these two at war; it’s Google, Facebook, Microsoft, HTC, Nokia, Yahoo, and just about every company you could think of embittered in an incestuous World War III-sized patent fight. And all those dollars being spent on litigation could be better spent on the development that puts new gadgets in the hands of consumers.
Twitter is certainly taking step in the right direction. Although, there’s an astronomical amount of money at stake in the current legal battles, and it’s going to take a bigger effort from even more players to calm the current patent storm.