It’s 2012.

The so-called “Smart-Phone Wars” rage across the planet.

Global technology giants are all vying for supremacy of entire markets by buying up patents and leveraging their portfolios as they try to knock each other off the mountain.

Then along comes Twitter.

In an attempt to stop the madness, the social media giant announced in late April it will be implementing a new Innovator’s Patent Agreement, a written agreement between Twitter and its inventors.

Under its terms, Twitter says that it will assert its patents only for defensive purposes, or only with the permission of the inventors, supposedly leaving ‘control of patents in the hands of inventors.’

I understand that Twitter is standing on its principles when it announced this move.  With no gun in any pending fight, Twitter is asserting its position on patent litigation to the world loud and clear.

Starting with the Preamble, Twitter wants everyone to notice how noble and egalitarian they are when they state:

WHEREAS Company and the Inventors believe that software patents should only be used to make a positive impact in the world and, accordingly, should only be used for defensive purposes;  (Emphasis added.)

What exactly are “defensive purposes” you might ask?  Paragraph 2 reads as follows:

2.  Company, on behalf of itself and its successors, transferees, and assignees (collectively “Assignee”), agrees not to assert any claims of any Patents which may be granted on any of the above applications unless asserted for a Defensive Purpose. An assertion of claims of the Patents shall be considered for a “Defensive Purpose” if the claims are asserted:

(a) against an Entity that has filed, maintained, threatened, or voluntarily participated in an intellectual property lawsuit against Assignee or any of Assignee’s users, affiliates, customers, suppliers, or distributors;

(b) against an Entity that has filed, maintained, or voluntarily participated in a patent infringement lawsuit against another in the past ten years, so long as the Entity has not instituted the patent infringement lawsuit defensively in response to a patent litigation threat against the Entity; or

(c) otherwise to deter a patent litigation threat against Assignee or Assignee’s users, affiliates, customers, suppliers, or distributors.

If Assignee needs to assert any of the Patent claims against any entity for other than a Defensive Purpose, Assignees must obtain prior written permission from all of the Inventors without additional consideration or threat. An “Entity” includes any related entities, where the entities are related by either ownership, control, financial interest, or common purpose.

All of this would be interesting and meaningful, but for one thing.  Twitter doesn’t have any US patents to assert against anyone.  Do a search for Twitter as Assignee at the USPTO.

They have one published US patent application, and one application came up when I did a search of the assignment database.  That’s it.  (If you can find more, please let me know.)

If this is true, the Agreement is for show.  This is a public image campaign that tries to make Twitter look like the hero.  Twitter is insinuating that it is making a noble choice about when and how to use its patent portfolio when in fact Twitter couldn’t bring a patent infringement suit against anyone even if they wanted to.

If you don’t like patents, patent litigation, or the whole system, just say so.  Don’t make up some holier-than-thou Agreement when you aren’t really doing anything that noble.

I find it odd that a company with no US patents to its name is publicly announcing an Innovator’s Patent Agreement.  Does anyone else find this Agreement a bit disingenuous?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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