Heralding a “new way to do patent assignment that keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers,” Twitter released a draft of its Innovator’s Patent Agreement (IPA) on Tuesday. Typically, employees sign an agreement that grants the company the legal right to any patents filed that relate to the employee’s work. The patent can then be used by the company in litigation, either offensively or for defensive purposes. Twitter’s IPA is unique in that the company promises not to use the patents in offensive litigation without permission from its employees. They will only be used for defensive purposes. Furthermore, “this control flows with the patents” so if the patents are sold, they can only be used as the inventor intended.
For many law firms, intellectual property litigation is an area that is thriving. Demand for IP litigation continues to buck the negative trends in the overall legal market, as we noted earlier this year. Peer Monitor data reported a 6.2% increase in demand for IP litigation in 2011. Fending off patent trolls, high stakes litigation involving market equals – especially in the high tech industry, and more global IP litigation have all been cited as some of the factors contributing to growth in this practice area.
Associate professor Eric Goldman at Santa Clara University School of Law and blogger on Internet law matters was interviewed by Reuters regarding the Twitter announcement. He believes the company’s reputation could rise among software engineers, some of whom have not been happy about having their patents used in litigation against other companies. He said, “Unquestionably, it’s an effort to define Twitter’s brand in the marketplace and to signal that its perhaps more engineering-friendly than companies that wouldn’t make such a promise.”
The IPA will be implemented by Twitter later this year and “it will apply to all patents issued to [their] engineers, both past and present.” The company has posted the IPA on GitHub in an effort to encourage discussion and share feedback among companies that might want to implement a similar arrangement. It will be interesting to see if other companies adopt this approach or something similar in the future.
Posted by Marianne Purzycki
Earlier this week we discussed how the proliferation of mobile technology is impacting the legal industry. A recent post from The Orange Rag, a UK blog about legal technology, details how legal IT vendors are incorporating social media. Among the more intriguing new offerings:
- Peppermint Technology is embedding Twitter streams in client and prospective client records, which allows law firms to track a client’s tweets alongside news and other aggregated data.
- Online conveyancing firm 1st Property Lawyers has signed on with Feefo, a platform for online feedback. Feefo enables the firm’s customers to post ratings and reviews of their experience the way diners might review a new restaurant on Yelp.
- Eclipse Legal System is incorporating Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook into its Proclaim Case Management system. Users can now access news and Twitter feeds, revise LinkedIn profiles, and post status updates to Facebook, all from within Proclaim.
As the legal industry continues to embrace new technologies, it is likely more legal vendors will begin incorporating social media and mobile technologies into their products.
Today we will be live-tweeting from the Institute’s Social Media Forum in New York. You can follow events on our Twitter feed, and join the conversation with hashtag #smlf11.