IBM has accused Twitter of infringing at least three of its patents, according to a document filed by the microblogging site on November 4.
In the latest amendment to its S-1 form, first issued when the company filed for an initial public offering (IPO) earlier this year, Twitter said that IBM was “inviting us to negotiate a business resolution of the allegations”.
The three patents alleged to be infringed by Twitter are US patent 6,957,224, which covers “efficient retrieval of uniform resource locators”, 7,072,849, a “method for presenting advertising in an interactive service”, and 7,099,862, which covers the “programmatic discovery of common contacts”.
“Based upon our preliminary review of these patents, we believe we have meritorious defences to IBM’s allegations, although there can be no assurance that we will be successful in defending against these allegations or reaching a business resolution that is satisfactory to us,” Twitter wrote in the IPO document.
It also suggested that the company may introduce new products and services in areas in which it does not currently have an offering, which could increase its exposure to patent and other IP claims from competitors and non-practicing entities.
“We presently are involved in a number of intellectual property lawsuits, and as we face increasing competition and gain an increasingly high profile, we expect the number of patent and other intellectual property claims against us to grow,” Twitter continued in the document.
“There may be intellectual property or other rights held by others, including issued or pending patents, that cover significant aspects of our products and services, and we cannot be sure that we are not infringing or violating, and have not infringed or violated, any third-party intellectual property rights or that we will not be held to have done so or be accused of doing so in the future.”
Steven Auvil, partner at Squire Sanders in Cleveland, said that it was “refreshing” to see news of parties “giving peace a chance”, as IBM proposed working out a business resolution rather than launching a law suit.
“The contemporary approach to resolve patent disputes seems to be to sue your adversary first, then start negotiating,” he said.
“Reading between the lines, I think what IBM has done is recognised that Twitter is on the rise, the clear inference is that they investigated what they had in their portfolio that they felt was being violated, and raised the matter without involving the court system,” he continued.
He added that IBM is well-known for having a robust licensing programme, and proceeding in a businesslike fashion.
Robert Yoches, a partner at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP in Washington, DC, said that the timing of IBM’s letter was not surprising, given Twitter’s recent decision to go public.
He said that one of the reasons a party will send a letter first rather than starting litigation is to begin the damages period.
“So even if you’re not ready to sue but you want to the damages to start building, you have to put the other side on notice,” he said.
He added that IBM has a licensing apparatus larger than many law firms, and said that the company rarely sues: “It’s not IBM’s modus operandi. They typically like to license and work things out ahead of time so this isn’t a surprise. Other companies are more aggressive.”
When contacted by WIPR, IBM and Twitter declined to comment.
As of September 30, 2013, Twitter had 9 US patents and approximately 95 patents applications filed in the US.
IBM, Twitter, patent infringement