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What does the Twitter patent mean for Yammer et al?

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What does the Twitter patent mean for Yammer et al?

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The wires have been abuzz this morning with news that Twitter have been trying to patent the very essence of the Twitter system.

From the patent: "The system is configured to receive a message addressed to one or more destination users (...) The system applies rules to the message based on destination user information to determine the message endpoints, the message endpoints being, for example, Short Message Service (SMS), Instant Messaging (IM), E-mail, web page output, or Application Program Interface (API) function call."

Suffice to say that this description could pretty easily be used to sum up services such as Yammer or Salesforce's Chatter.  Will this spell legal problems for the duo?  At the moment it seems unlikely.

"Like many companies, we apply for patents on a bunch of our inventions. We also think a lot about how those patents may be used in the future, which is why we introduced the Innovator's Patent Agreement to keep control of those patents in the hands of engineers and designers," said Twitter in a statement to the Verge.

Last year Twitter joined with Yammer in launching the Innovator's Patent Agreement, which essentially meant that they would not launch legal action against competitors on patent grounds.  That agreement however hit shaky ground once Yammer were bought by Microsoft, who were slightly keener to remain able to launch legal action if they wished.

2012 was blighted by a series of patent litigation between tech rivals.  Hopefully Twitter won't choose to use their patent in an offensive manner, but if you are a rival using this kind of technology it is certainly something to keep an eye on.

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