If a rectangle can be patented, than everything is fair game if you apply the broadest parameters when you submit your patent. The patent system is in need of a massive overhaul, because as it stands right now companies with enough assets can stifle innovation by making inane claims against the competition. After a long five years, Twitter (News - Alert) finally received a patent on its messaging service, which covers virtually every message delivery system currently being used by everyone from Facebook (News - Alert) to the emergency broadcasting system. In order to differentiate itself from certain companies that are sue-happy, Twitter has published an Inventor’s Patent Agreement or IPA.
The agreement was posted on the company site and it states that patents, “may be used to impede the innovation of others” and Twitter will ensure its “patents can only be used for defensive purposes,” and “this is a significant departure from the current state of affairs in the industry.” The current state of affairs in the industry is sad to say the least, but this comment also has to be weighed in with a global environment in which patents aren’t grossly violated by countries that have complete disregard for patent laws.
The patent was filed in 2007 by Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone, and the abstract of the patent briefly describes the broad reach of the patent. “A system (and method) for device-independent point to multipoint communication is disclosed. The system is configured to receive a message addressed to one or more destination users, the message type being, for example, Short Message Service (SMS), Instant Messaging (IM), e-mail, Web form input, or Application Program Interface (API) function call.”
The rest of the document goes into great detail covering a multitude of possibilities on how a message can be transmitted digitally between two points. Suffice it to say, if an organization sends any type of message using a computing device this patent probably covers aspects of it.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) wants to ensure that the intellectual property of individuals and organizations is protected, but a new system has to be designed with realistic parameters covering a new patent when it is filed. If the USPTO fails to act, then it is left to companies like Twitter to live up to the promise they make in their own proclamation.
Edited by Brooke Neuman