Mike Isaac

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IBM Hits Twitter With Patent Infringement Claims Ahead of IPO

patent_all_thingsJust days away from the company’s initial public offering, Twitter on Monday disclosed that multi-national computing conglomerate IBM is claiming Twitter has infringed upon its existing intellectual property.

The news, which came as a brief aside in Twitter’s latest S-1 amendment filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, signals Twitter’s first big step into the aggressive landscape of technology patent litigation in Silicon Valley, a place where companies like Google, Oracle, Apple and Samsung lobby suits back and forth on a regular basis.

According to the filing, the two companies do not appear to be in litigation with one another yet; instead, IBM has invited Twitter to participate in some form of “business resolution” to deal with the alleged infringement.

A Twitter spokesman declined to comment. Update 9:24 am PT: An IBM spokesman told AllThingsD, “We have no comment.”

As detailed in the S-1 filing:

“… We recently received a letter from International Business Machines Corporation, or IBM, alleging that we infringe on at least three U.S. patents held by IBM, and inviting us to negotiate a business resolution of the allegations. The three patents specifically identified by IBM in the letter were U.S. Patent No. 6,957,224: Efficient retrieval of uniform resource locators, U.S. Patent No. 7,072,849: Method for presenting advertising in an interactive service and U.S. Patent No. 7,099,862: Programmatic discovery of common contacts.”

Like many technology patents, most of the above filings are written in broad, general terms. The first patent, for instance, granted in October of 2005, describes “A system, method and computer program product for providing links to remotely located information in a network of remotely connected computers.” Another describes “a common contact identification system.”

“Based upon our preliminary review of these patents, we believe we have meritorious defenses 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 goes on to state in the risk factors section of its filing.

While the threat of an infringement suit from a major company is perhaps a first for the microblogging service, it is not likely that IBM’s claims will have any immediate bearing on Twitter’s forthcoming IPO. Patent infringement claims have grown increasingly common to technology companies, especially over the past five years.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work