Disappointing: Twitter Gives In To IBM's Patent Shakedown
from the stand-up-for-yourself,-dammit dept
This is unfortunate for Twitter too, seeing as it's a company that has gone out of its way to make sure that its own patents can almost never be used to threaten and shake down other companies. Clearly, Twitter recognizes the problems with the patent shakedown game, but I guess as a newly public company, it didn't want to have to deal with answering to investors about a patent lawsuit when it could just pay it to go away. IBM's totally bogus statement on the deal has their General Manager of Intellectual Property, Ken King say:
"We are pleased to reach this agreement with Twitter because it illustrates the value of patented IBM inventions and demonstrates our commitment to licensing access to our broad patent portfolio."But it doesn't illustrate that at all. It illustrates the ability of IBM to shake a big folder of questionable patents at Twitter and threaten to drain millions of dollars in court if the company doesn't just pay up. That's not illustrating the value of IBM's "inventions." It's illustrating a modern shakedown -- one that IBM has has been using for years. There's the famous story of how IBM did this same shakedown of Sun back in the 1980's, showing up with a bunch of patents. After Sun's engineers pointed out they didn't infringe on any of them, IBM's lawyers didn't care:
An awkward silence ensued. The blue suits did not even confer among themselves. They just sat there, stonelike. Finally, the chief suit responded. "OK," he said, "maybe you don't infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?"In that case, Sun cut a check. And now Twitter has too. Because that's how IBM shakes down pretty much any successful tech company. And you wonder why the company is lobbying so hard to stop a proposed change that would let companies get the patent office to review IBM's crappy patents.