Twitter Plans to Give Employees More Control Over Patents

Company unveils new agreement that it hopes will change business in the Silicon Valley.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Twitter says it will give its employees more control over the patents they help author.

    Just as Larry Ellison was preparing to take the stand in Oracle and Google's ongoing patent battle, Twitter flung what it hopes will be a new shot across the patent lawsuit happy Silicon Valley bow.

    On Tuesday the San Francisco-based social-networking site unveiled a new code of ethics aimed at giving its designers and engineers more control over the technology they create behind the patents the company owns.

    Under its new "Innovator’s Patent Agreement," Twitter says it will not sue another company over a patent developed by one of its employees without that person's permission.

    The move marks a shift from the industry's normal practice.

    "Typically, engineers and designers sign an agreement with their company that irrevocably gives that company any patents filed related to the employee’s work<" Twitter's Vice President of Engineering Adam Messinger said in a statement. "The company then has control over the patents and can use them however they want, which may include selling them to others who can also use them however they want. With the IPA, employees can be assured that their patents will be used only as a shield rather than as a weapon."

    The new agreement comes in the midst of Twitter's annual hack week, where the company challenges its employees to think of innovative ideas outside of their normal scope of work -- some of which can lead to patents.

    Twitter says it will implement the new policy later this year.