This article was published on May 21, 2013

Twitter uses first version of its Innovator’s Patent Agreement to protect pull-to-refresh gesture

Twitter uses first version of its Innovator’s Patent Agreement to protect pull-to-refresh gesture

Twitter launched the first version of its Innovator’s Patent Agreement (IPA) today and applied it to a patent invented by Loren Brichter in the United States for ‘user interface mechanics.’

The terms of the IPA means that Twitter can only use the patent, filed as U.S. Patent No. 8,448,084, for defensive purposes — all other use cases require Loren’s permission. “If we need to assert the patent for anything other than a defensive purpose, we will need Loren’s permission,” Benjamin Lee, legal director for Twitter confirmed.

The patent in question relates to the pull-to-refresh gesture that was built by Loren Brichter while he was working on Tweetie. The filing published today reads:

Input associated with a scroll command may be received. Then, based on the scroll command, a scrollable refresh trigger may be displayed. Subsequently, the scrollable list of content items may be refreshed in response to determining, based on the scroll command, that the scrollable refresh trigger has been activated.

The IPA was announced in April 2012 as a new initiative to help Twitter protect its patents, as well as avoid the long and tedious legal procedures enjoyed by all sorts of high-profile technology firms, including smartphone manufacturers Samsung and Apple.

This new method of patent assignment means that ownership is retained by the appropriate engineer or designer who invented it. The company has als0 promised that it will only use such patents for defensive purposes; in other words, Twitter won’t be using them to sue other companies proactively. It also means that if Twitter ever wanted to sell the patents to another company, the ownership would move with the same permissions outlined by the inventor.

In the past, Twitter has called the IPA a “shield”, rather than a “weapon” for patent disputes.

“This is a significant departure from the current state of affairs in the industry,” Adam Messinger said in April last year. “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.”

A signed copy of the IPA is being kept in a public file, so anyone can look it. Twitter plans to implement the API for all other patents issued to its engineers, both past and present.

In an interesting move, mystery tech startup Jelly and mobile productivity app Lift have also announced today that they adopt the IPA system for their own patents moving forward.

Image Credit: KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images