Twitter’s Business Reality: Not all Intellectual Property is Free



I think that Forbes contributor Michael Kanellos has made some very important points about the reality of Twitter’s new “Innovator’s Patent Agreement” or IPA.  Good for him for not being swept away with the free drinks at happy hour. Twitter’s policy can’t be justified at most companies where a significant portion of net value is in intellectual assets, including patents. Such a company might be in for fewer patent suits, but you can bet the shareholder lawsuit rate would increase. As Talk Points Memo reporter Carl Franzen correctly notes, Twitter doesn’t actually have any patents yet.

What the IPA does not address is the fact that Twitter, like all major web-based businesses, makes use of the technology described in literally thousands of patents every day, with every Tweet. A lot of those are owned by Open Invention Network, where Twitter is a member and therefore has free access. Even with employee approval, Twitter-owned patents could not be used against Linux.  That is good for everyone, including Twitter.

But many more patents Twitter uses may not be covered, and those should be licensed. I would have much more faith in this new initiative if it included some recognition of the business reality that not all intellectual property is free.

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