SV Angel is an investor in Twitter. Many friends work there. My best friend (@gracelee) works there. I have never been more proud to be involved with Twitter than today.
Today they announced the Innovator’s Patent Agreement. It is a radical statement against the patent trolls and the damage they’ve inflicted on the tech industries. Instead of lobbying government to address this (also an important technique) they took the matter into their hands by acting in the commercial market.
Twitter VP of Engineering Adam Messinger (@adam_messinger) summarized what this means:
“This is a significant departure from the current state of affairs in the industry. 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.*”* (Link to blog)
In a nutshell, Twitter won’t be a troll.
If other companies adopted this, you would have a state of detente instead of the current climate of mutually assured destruction. It also affects startups. Many startups go belly-up. That means they go bankrupt. Trolls often troll in bankruptcy court for patents that go into bankruptcy court. Like any other asset sold in bankruptcy, you can get them on the cheap. Trolls aggregate these patents as part of their war chest. So you as a startup have the potential in actually helping these trolls. This kills that loophole. Patents in bankruptcy become benign.
This is an unbelievably good thing. More powerful and effective than any legislation. We will encourage SV Angel companies to adopt this policy. Patents were meant to protect, not penalize.
Congratulations to @twitter for making such a bold statement on a regrettably critical issue for tech companies.