I have just read an article commenting on Twitter’s casual revelation in its S-1 filing prior to its IPO later this week, that IBM has notified the social media company that it is infringing three of IBM’s patents. The article seemed surprised at the casual attitude of the parties so far and the fact that the disclosure was not kept under wraps.
In the UK (and internationally) allegations of patent infringement have to be dealt with delicately in order to avoid the provisions relating to ‘threats’ actions. The fact that IBM have ‘invited’ Twitter to comment is entirely in line with current practice of treading softly rather than wading in with both feet. As the holder of a patent which is potentially being infringed, it is essential that you have in place an effective patent enforcement strategy which not only alleviates threats concerns, but which assesses the commercial and financial strengths of an enforcement action against the possibility that a) your patent should never have been granted (either in terms of novelty or lack of distinctiveness or prior art disclosure) or b) it is susceptible to revocation. In either instance, a company finds itself at the end of a lengthy and costly patent litigation with a revoked patent and a large adverse costs order.
The three patents have been identified as efficient retrieval of uniform resource locators; method for presenting advertising in an interactive service and programmatic discovery of common contracts. These rather broad titles hint at invalidity and we anticipate that any subsequent law suit, if any, will be highly complex. We shall wait and listen with interest.