Just yesterday Twitter announced the Innovators Patent Agreement, which was designed to keep patents in the hands of the original creators and limit how those patents were used against other companies ‘offensively’. Now startup accelerator TechStars has spoken out in support of what VC Fred Wilson has called a ‘Patent Hack’.
TechStars founder and CEO David Cohen says that the accelerator will adopt the patent use terms that Twitter laid out into its standard formation documents and will encourage all of its companies to adopt them as well, though doing so will remain optional.
As always, the entrepreneurs will get to choose if they want to play by these rules or not since it’s their company. But they’ll know that TechStars encourages them to adopt the provisions and we’ll make it very easy for them to do so.
In a positive post about it earlier today, Wilson said that Union Square Ventures was also committed to supporting the initiative and said that the startup lawyers it was working with were being instructed to insert the language in its standard forms. Wilson said that the organization was also reaching out to other VCs, programs and lawyers to suggest that they do the same.
Twitter explained the IPA as a way to file patents, but keep them in control of the engineers and designers responsible for them, rather than in the hands of lawyers which will use them to sue other companies proactively. Twitter says that it will never use the patents offensively unless the employee’s who created them give them permission.
This control will follow the patents, even if they are sold. That means that other companies can never use the patents in ways that the original creators do not intend.
Cohen says that Twitter’s move to change the way that patents are filed “means that Twitter has the balls to compete on the basis of the products it creates and the service it provides. It won’t reply on patents to “win” an offensive game. It will use them as an asset only if and when it is attacked. What a concept.”
He goes on to thank Twitter for its leadership and says that anyone that is a fan of software innovation should do the same. That’s a prominent accelerator and venture group on board. Who’s next?