Is Twitter's Patent Strategy To Not Get Any Patents?

from the good-for-them dept

We've noted in the past that Twitter is unique among many companies in its trademark strategy. Rather than threatening everyone and sending cease-and-desist letters all of the time, it has a very open (and free) licensing program, which has contributed to the rather large ecosystem built up around Twitter. The company will step in when dealing with clearly egregious attempts to use the trademark in a misleading or confusing way, but for the most part has been incredibly lenient.

So what about the company's patent strategy. The company has been sued for patent infringement, but you must figure that it's collecting patents of its own, right? After all, even companies that are against software patents usually get them for defensive purposes, and there are plenty of things that Twitter has done that I'm sure the USPTO would approve. And, yet, Erik Sherman keeps checking the USPTO filings and can't seem to find any patents filed by Twitter.

Sherman notes that one of Twitter's major investors, Union Square Ventures, has been pretty outspoken about the harm that patents have done to start-ups (and how little benefit any of their start-ups have gotten from patents). However, when he asked Fred Wilson, from USV, about Twitter's patent strategy, Wilson told him he didn't know anything about it.

Of course, we've been told by some patent system supporters that if you're not getting patents, you're not actually inventing and that there's no incentive to invent without patents. So, do we assume that Twitter is doing nothing special at all... or that, perhaps, there are other incentives and other ways to compete rather than relying on patents?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Pickle Monger (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 6:35am

    "Of course, we've been told by some patent system supporters that if you're not getting patents, you're not actually inventing and that there's no incentive to invent without patents. So, do we assume that Twitter is doing nothing special at all... or that, perhaps, there are other incentives and other ways to compete rather than relying on patents?"

    Or they're still trying to figure out how to file patents in 140 characters or less...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    jsl4980 (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 7:39am

    Twitter inventions?

    I'm not a big Twitter user, but I do see the value in it. However, I don't see anything on the surface of Twitter that would actually be a new technological invention or innovation. They have a neat service, but limiting the length of a user's message isn't really an invention it's just dealing with limitations of some cell phones. It leads to a lot of fun and creativity, but it's not an invention. Maybe they invented something on the back end that I'm not aware of.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Erik Sherman, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 7:40am

    Came to see the (thanks!) link and ended up having a huge laugh. FTW.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 7:55am

    Try copyrighting your code. When you PUBLISH a program you write text or code. Kinda like a book, poem or song. Written matter. Duh!!!

    The patent system for software will have to fail or no one will be able to write any software without infringing. There goes innovation and the end of my career. I write new programs and do not infringe on copyrights. But how can I stop or compete with a patent on a process for a menu?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 7:55am

    Perhaps the largest slice of value in patents is for the lawyers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 8:13am

    They Despise Patents

    Like many inventors, they despise patents. They have figured out that patents are only useful if you are being sued by another company that actually makes stuff. That does not apply for patent trolls. So owning patents does not help when you are up against patent trolls. Therefore it is smarter to put your money into defense, not offense. Well done. Somebody is thinking at Twitter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Derek Bredensteiner (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 9:38am

    Re: Twitter inventions?

    "there are plenty of things that Twitter has done that I'm sure the USPTO would approve"

    If I were a betting man, I'd bet any of the following would be patents (or claims within a patent) approved by the USPTO:
    i) A method for distributing messages from users to subscribers of that user
    ii) A method for forwarding ("retweeting" if you will) messages with references to the original message from a user to their subscribers
    iii) A method for real time search by long polling of a http request so that search results are returned in real time in any javascript capable browser.

    And the worst part is that those are gross oversimplifications that don't even begin to highlight where the true innovation "behind the scenes" is occurring.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 10:01am

    Re: Twitter inventions?

    However, I don't see anything on the surface of Twitter that would actually be a new technological invention or innovation.

    They've really pushed real-time notification and search (at a massive scale) forward. Given the sort of patents we see all the time, you gotta believe the USPTO would approve patents on that subject matter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Jason (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 10:33am

    Perhaps they're just not public yet

    Patents are only laid open to the public 18 months after they have been filed, and even at this point many companies haven't filed the assignment papers yet. Therefore, simply searching for 'Twitter' or another corporate name will not yield any results. Searching by any known inventors is much more effective.

    Also, there's a quirk in US law that says if you disclaim the right to file patents internationally for your US patent, you don't have to publish them at all until they issue. This, of course, takes years.

    Perhaps Twitter is trying something different, but the simpler explanation is probably that we just haven't seen their patents yet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    lfroen (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re: Twitter inventions?

    Twitter pushed wwwwhat? Real-time? Where?! Are you for real? There's (almost) nothing "real-time" in internet, push mail is not real-time either.
    You can't have guaranteed latency between 2 endpoints connected with IP stack.

    No matter how valuable you think the Twitter is, there's nothing of engineering complexity there. NOTHING. Bunch of scripts+webserver. Repeat after me: valuable != complex.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Twitter inventions?

    Twitter pushed wwwwhat? Real-time? Where?! Are you for real? There's (almost) nothing "real-time" in internet, push mail is not real-time either.
    You can't have guaranteed latency between 2 endpoints connected with IP stack.

    No matter how valuable you think the Twitter is, there's nothing of engineering complexity there. NOTHING. Bunch of scripts+webserver. Repeat after me: valuable != complex.


    I just want to highlight this comment for its sheer ignorance. That is all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Twitter inventions?

    I think he's referring to the sheer obviousness of most current patents - this would be on par with those.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    amitart (profile), Oct 15th, 2010 @ 11:22pm

    twitter

    see patent application 11995343 at USPTO for both Twitter and Facebook Newsfeed patent

    (1) subscribe others and allow subscription of messages
    (2) index all messages of all users and
    (3) search and subscribe sources based on messages

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 11:28pm

    Re: twitter

    yes its exact twitter and facebook news feed patent

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    staff, Oct 17th, 2010 @ 9:38am

    praying for rain

    "how little benefit any of their start-ups have gotten from patents"

    Again, there are patents and then there are patents. When firms lack quality they flood the PTO with applns. It's like praying for rain when your team doesn't have a chance.

    bias, bias, zzzzzzzzzz

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    BBT, Oct 18th, 2010 @ 8:00am

    "Twitter is doing nothing special at all..."

    Yep, sounds about right. Of course, by USPTO standards Twitter's rather bland (yet extremely popular!) idea would probably qualify for 87 patents, by reasonable standards 0 patents is about right.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Dedic, Nov 1st, 2011 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Twitter inventions?

    Yes but complex != patentable necessarily. Some of the most patentable inventions are quite simple.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Mark Nowotarski (patent agent), Apr 16th, 2012 @ 11:25am

    Now they have a patent filed

    Twitter's first patent application has just published. US 2012/0089681. It was filed in 2010.

    Expect more to follow.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This