Twitter’s so-called “Patent Hack,” whereby patent rights are pledged to be used for defensive purposes only and inventors retain some rights under the agreement, has quickly gained the notice of the venture capital group Union Square Ventures (USV). USV has adopted the proposed language as standard for its startup’s forms.
Twitter announced the “Innovator’s Patent Agreement” on Tuesday as a way to keep innovators in the picture and to change the way patents are wielded. The company voiced concern about the way patents may be used to actually stifle innovation rather than promote it. It also wanted to keep some control of the patents with the actual innovators - the designers and engineers - rather than transferring all rights to the company who can then do as they please with it.
Traditionally, patents generated by employees become the property of the company they work for. The actual inventor has little or no say once the patent is issued on how it will be used, or even possibly sold to other parties. The IPA changes this. While the company still maintains ownership of the patent, the inventor retains some control of how that patent is used. The IPA also commits patent holders to using the patent as a defensive weapon, rather than an offensive one.
Twitter will implement the IPA later this year, and will make it retroactive for all patents earned by their engineers.
That wasn’t quite quick enough for the venture capital crowd. however; the “Patent Hack” has been out merely a day, and USV has already adopted it as standard language in the forms that they use with their startup groups. The startups have the right to refuse the language, without penalty, but the IPA is the default. It remains to be seen how many other groups and companies follow suit.
Patent image courtesy of Shutterstock.