Twitter announces new patent strategy: Trolls need not apply

troll twitterThe tech patent wars are threatening to take over the market: desperate companies use them as last ditch attempts at a profit and industry titans to suppress their competitors. For every problem that the patent process solves in tech, it creates 10 more.

It’s all gotten terribly out of control, and several companies are starting to strike out against the standard. Today Twitter joined them with its Innovator’s Patent Agreement (IPA). “The IPA is a new way to do patent assignment that keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers,” the company announced via its blog. “It is a commitment from Twitter to our employees that patents can only be used for defensive purposes. We will not use the patents from employees’ inventions in offensive litigation without their permission. What’s more, this control flows with the patents, so if we sold them to others, they could only use them as the inventor intended.”

The current state of patents affairs is anything but civil. In one corner you have Yahoo, in its most desperate hour, suing a conveniently pre-IPO Facebook based on patents it’s had for years. In another, you have Apple and Samsung trading patent litigation to try and block the other from selling their products all over the world. And the general consensus surrounding all of it is that it hurts innovation: the better technology for consumers doesn’t always win – sometimes the guy who bought the stronger patent portfolio does.

Patents were intended to protect ideas you put into action, processes you’d refined – they were shields for inventors to exercise upon attack. They were not meant to be bought up and horded and then used once a competitor had been lured into a false sense of safety.

Which is why Twitter’s IPA announcement is an inspiring idea. It means the person that the patent is actually tied to retains say over its use.

It’s both surprising and sensible that Twitter is taking this stand. The company has been criticized for its treatment of third developers before; gouging their creativity and then taking it in house and driving their apps out of business. At the same time, the company has repeatedly done its part to act ethically and use its position to create a stronger social networking community.

Now if big consumer tech companies – like Apple, HTC, or Samsung – would consider this type of agreement, there would be considerable change. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Baby steps. 

Gaming

Has it really been 17 years? The past, present, and future of the Xbox

From "DirectX Box" to "720," it's been a long, strange trip for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console. Here is what happened, from its odd beginnings to the rumored Scarlett console with streaming.
Home Theater

Apple is arming up to redefine TV just like it did the phone

Curious about what Apple's answer to Netflix will be? Us too. So we combed through some patents, and looked at the landscape, to come up with a bold prediction: Apple's streaming service will be way bigger than anyone thinks.
Smart Home

Samsung lets slip that its Galaxy Home speaker will be here by April

Samsung has been teasing customers about its Galaxy Home smart speaker, powered by the Bixby digital assistant, for some time but after neglecting to mention it at Galaxy Unpacked, the company let it slip that it's coming in April.
Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Social Media

Periscope tool adds guests to feeds so streamers can become talk show hosts

Periscope users can now invite viewers to chime into the conversation with more than just the comment tool. By enabling the option to add guests, livestreamers can add guests to the conversation, in audio format only.
Photography

Crouching, climbing, and creeping, the perfect Instagram shot knows no bounds

Just how far will you go for the perfect Instagram? A recent survey shows just how willing Instagram users -- and Instagram husbands -- are to climb, lie down, embarrass themselves or let their food go cold for the perfect shot.
Social Media

Facebook’s long-promised ‘unsend’ feature arrives. Here’s how to use it

Send a message to the wrong person? Messenger now gives you 10 minutes to take it back. After an update beginning to roll out today, users can now retract messages if they act within the first 10 minutes after sending the message.
Social Media

YouTube boss admits even her own kids gave the ‘Rewind’ video a thumbs down

YouTube's 2018 Rewind video went down like a lead balloon at the end of last year, becoming the most disliked video in its history. And now YouTube's CEO has admitted that even her own kids thought it was pretty darn awful.
Social Media

Snapchat finally recovers from its redesign — so here comes an Android update

Snapchat's drop in users after launching a controversial redesign has finally stagnated. During the fourth quarter and 2018 earnings report, Snapchat shared that the company is rolling out an Android update designed to increase performance.
Social Media

Skype’s new ‘blur background’ feature could help keep you from blushing

Skype's latest feature for desktop lets you blur your background during video calls. The idea is that it keeps you as the focus instead of distracting others with whatever embarrassing things you might have on show behind you.
Social Media

Twitter users are declining but more people are seeing ads every day

Twitter's end-of-the-year report for 2018 is a mix of good and bad news. The good news is that more users are seeing adds daily, the metric the company will focus on moving forward. But the bad news is that monthly active users are…
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Computing

YouTube beats Apple, Netflix as the most trusted brand by millennials

The popular video sharing website YouTube climbed up in an annual Mblm study, moving up from third place in 2018 and coming ahead of both Apple and Netflix in final 2019 rankings. 
Social Media

LinkedIn finally gets around to launching its own live video tool

Live video is coming to LinkedIn for businesses and individuals on the site. The livestreaming feature is launching in beta in the U.S. before rolling out to the entire community.