updated 02:10 pm EDT, Tue April 17, 2012
Twitter Innovator Patents Agreement defense-only
Twitter VP of Engineering Addam Messinger in a statement hoped to reassure developers that it wouldn't sue over patents like Loren Brichter's pull-to-refresh control. A new Innovator's Patent Agreement would only allow using a patent for defensive purposes unless Twitter had explicit permission from the inventor. The pact would also see that level of control transferred with the patents, preventing a company buying the patents from turning around and suing against the inventor's will.
The IPA should take effect later in 2012 and will retroactively apply to earlier patents such as Brichter's. Twitter is encouraging other companies to adopt the same terms for their own work. Brichter himself, having been out of Twitter for some time, endorsed the initiative.
In making the agreement, Twitter is hoping to change a common practice where employees who patent anything relevant to their employment automatically relinquish control. Some companies have been known to take patents developed independently of actual work and use them to sue even when the inventor objects to the strategy.
The attitude should relieved numerous developers that have used pull-to-refresh or other now-common software tricks in other apps, including Tapbots' own Twitter client Tweetbot as well as Facebook and others. In theory, it will see Twitter avoid most any technical lawsuit unless pressed by an outside company.