Twitter sued for patent infringement
The devil is in the details
Megapopular microblogger Twitter is being sued for patent infringment by a Texas company that alleges the 140-character messaging system is based on its patented digital-notification technology.
The suit was filed TechRadium, a Sugar Land, Texas-based company that, according to its website, "delivers the world's leading edge mass notification and emergency alerting systems to a vast array of governmental, educational, commercial and non-profit entities."
At issue is the "mass notification" part of that self-description. According to court documents submitted to the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, TechRadium holds three patents on the technology behind its IRIS (immediate response information system) for which it claims infringement.
The IRIS system makes it possible for a group administrator to issue a single message that will be delivered to multiple subscribers "simultaneously via multiple communication gateways," according to the suit.
Sounds like Twitter, alright. But it also sounds like any number of different messaging systems. The devil, as is always the case, is in the details.
TechRadium's lawyer, W. Shawn Staples of the Houston, Texas, Mostyn Law Firm contends that the details are on the Texas firm's side, telling the IDG News Service that "The problem is the Twitter architecture. The way they have it set up is technology that is squarely within TechRadium's patents."
And Twitter's alleged infringment, according to Staples, puts TechRadium's business at risk. "There have been recently some municipalities and other organisations who have claimed they'll use Twitter for emergency notification systems," Staples said, "and that's technology that TechRadium has spent many years and a lot of money developing."
Exactly which specifics of its technology that TechRadium claims are being infringed upon are not detailed in the brief, eight-page court filing. However, the three patents cited are entitled "Digital notification and response system ," "Method for providing digital notification," and "Method for providing digital notification and receiving responses."
Each of the patents - especially the latter two - go into great detail describing the architecture of the IRIS system. It will be up to the court to match the architecture they describe with that of Twitter's to determine if the similarities constitute infringement.
If the court rules in TechRadium's favor, it's unclear what the damages might be. The filing doesn't mention a dollar amount, only that it seeks "recovery of damages for lost profits, reasonable royalties, unjust enrichment, and benefits received by the Defendant as a result of use the misappropriated technology."
In addition, TechRadium also seeks "exemplary damages" due to Twitter's "gross negligence, malice, or actual fraud," and because "Defendant’s conduct was committed intentionally, knowingly, and with callous disregard of Plaintiff’s legitimate rights."
It's not that Twitter didn't see this coming. In mid-July, a hacker exposed a wealth of corporate and personal documents - one of which, as Wired points out, was stamped "Legal" and included the prophetic words: "We will be sued for patent infringement, repeatedly and often." ®
You only have the intermediate step and one quoted by Wikipedia. Virtually all products can be readily reverse engineered. It's certainly true that it is a requirement of the patent system that it is published (how would you know what you might be infringing on if you didn't know the content of the technical details in the patent or, indeed, what on earth was being patented). The purpose of the legislation was to encourage enterprise and invention. Publishing the details is a necessary, and welcome, side effect but it isn't the main purpose.
If the publishing of technical research was the main aim then it might extend further - for instance, just how much wasted effort would be saved if those seeking patents were required to publish the full details of the relevant research (which they are most certainly not required to do). This is not just a theoretical issue - drug companies waste a lot of money on fruitless research carried out by others (read Ben Goldacre on the subject). I happen to think he's probably wrong, but the requirement to publish technical details on patents is a very narrow one and inescapable.
Don't spend your money yet. I have the patent on the original thing from which everything was derived.
Patents and laws
Its my firm believe the idea of a patent was invented to fatted some more laywers wallets. Seriously, the way its going now its seriously taking the piss. People invent NON-WORKING things on a back of a napkin (time machines and what have you), and patent this.
Next thing you'll know some legal eagle is going to patent speech and start taxing us having a chat over a beer or something stupid like this. Dont even get me started on the notion that you can patent mathematical formulas. What the hell????
Point is that people abuse this system for personal gain. They invent some thing which probably already exist on a napkin n the pub (think compression of images and sound as an example), and then wait for a bigshot to implement it and sue them.
Mass messaging - uhm, all the text spam in Asia and the UK should fall under that category. And im sure it was there for much longer than this shoddy claim.
Just to clarify, i dont do twitter or facebook or any of that blogs. I just think this patent thing is out of hand.