Twitter buys 900 IBM patents, dodging a potential infringement suit

The patents likely cover a range of software and tools of interest to Twitter

Twitter has acquired over 900 patents from IBM, a move likely intended to settle IBM's claims that Twitter was infringing on at least three of its patents.

IBM said Friday that Twitter acquired the patents in December, and that the companies had entered into a patent cross-license agreement covering other technologies that might be shared between the firms.

The deal will likely allow Twitter to continue to operate without facing a copyright infringement suit from IBM, which is one of the largest U.S. patent holders with an active portfolio of roughly 41,000 patents.

"This acquisition of patents from IBM and licensing agreement provides us with greater intellectual property protection and gives us freedom of action to innovate on behalf of all those who use our service," said Ben Lee, legal director for Twitter, in the announcement.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Just as it was preparing to go public, Twitter revealed in November in a regulatory filing that IBM had alleged that it was infringing on at least three of its U.S. patents. Although it didn't file a lawsuit, IBM sent Twitter a letter inviting the social media company "to negotiate a business resolution of the allegations," Twitter said at the time.

IBM identified three patents specifically in the letter: for the efficient retrieval of uniform resource locators, for presenting advertising in an interactive service, and for programmatic discovery of common contacts, Twitter said.

It is not clear whether those three patents were included in the 900 that Twitter has since acquired, although they probably are. The totality of the purchased patents likely covers any number of software technologies and tools Twitter may choose to incorporate into its service. Twitter could not be immediately reached for comment.

Because IBM holds such a large portfolio of patents, Twitter's relationship with the company is not unique. Facebook, in the lead-up to its IPO, also purchased patents from IBM, as has Google.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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