back to article Twitter patents sending messages, promises not to sue everyone

Twitter has patented a messaging service in which users follow each other and send messages that don't have specific recipients - or in other words, Twitter. The approved patent, originally filed in 2007 but published this week, describes pretty much how Twitter and tweeting work, and lists Twitter founders Jack Dorsey and Biz …


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  1. Code Monkey

    Prior art


    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: Prior art

      worryingly there are lots of so called "techies" who have never heard of usenet. Take Virgin Media, for example. When I had problems posting on usenet a few weeks ago, I logged a support call. The first reply from the "engineer" asked if I had "contacted usenet to see if they had any problems".

    2. M Gale

      Re: Prior art

      I take your Usenet and raise you a Massively Multiplayer Notepad.. ahem, IRC.

      Complete with #hashtags.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Prior art


      BBSen in general

      Chat rooms

      In fact, any broadcast medium whatsoever. I believe the BBC have been transmitting messages without specific recipients but which people can choose to "follow" by tuning in a "receiver" since the '20s.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Prior art

        BBC? I think the Romans were doing it on public noticeboards at road junctions about 2000 years ago. It's where the word "trivia" comes from ("three roads").

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Prior art

          "[...]Romans were doing it on public noticeboards at road junctions about 2000 years ago."

          Damn, you ranked my example by thousands of years.

          I was going to say

          CQ CQ CQ

          (The standard call on radio for "any station receiving").

        2. Chris007
          Thumb Up

          Re: Prior art

          Thanks - I had no idea that's where the word Trivia came from.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Prior art

      Or Livejournal if you're talking about a web service.

      1. Stoneshop


        Late to the party, young whippersnapper

    5. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Prior art

      Mailing lists... RSS...

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Prior art

        In the electronic world, the first was 1973's "Community Memory".

    6. W.O.Frobozz

      Re: Prior art

      You mean CBBS, courtesy of Ward & Randy.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @W.O.Frobozz (was: Re: Prior art)

        CBBS came out half a decade after Community Memory.

    7. MrXavia
      Thumb Up

      Re: Prior art

      RSS too? pretty much the same thing...

      you 'follow' a stream....

      Usenet... wow that brings back memories!

    8. LarsG

      Re: Prior art

      Won't matter in the slightest, they donate enough money to political causes to get away with it and influence the right people.

    9. Thorne

      Re: Prior art

      Town crier, the dark ages...

  2. Christoph

    Fine while it lasts

    Their policy on patents sounds very good - but what happens if they get taken over and the new owners don't give a toss?

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: Fine while it lasts

      Quick someone patent not giving a toss. It's a hard one to patent though. Can never find the motivation to file an application.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        Re: Fine while it lasts

        A patent on tossing could be very lucrative given the number of tossers in the world.

        1. Naughtyhorse

          Re: Fine while it lasts

          I think you'll find that tosser is spelled properly with a lower case 'i' and has already been patented!

    2. Psyx
      Thumb Up

      Re: Fine while it lasts

      Precisely my thoughts.

      What Twitter have done is just added a billion or more to their value in very real and permanent terms.

      So when it starts to drop off-peak, it'll get hoovered up by a giant who will then sue everyone they can.

  3. philbo

    I'm gonna start up my own social network it "shitter"

    Like twitter, but even more crap. Do you think they'd sue?

    1. LinkOfHyrule

      Re: I'm gonna start up my own social network

      Now that's the social network for me!

      I suggest a brown colour scheme and the logo should be a cartoon turd. Instead of "tweets" you could have "farts" and instead of the so called "fire hose" you should have the "Shitter sewer overflow".

      If they do sue and you don't have the money to fight it - negotiate with them to buy you out - they could merge the two services together and create "Bird Shit" - the social network that drops 160 character messages directly on your head from the cloud!

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: I'm gonna start up my own social network

        An obvious design decision is to host it somewhere that has an entirely optical infrastructure.

        Shitter throughput is improved by fibre.

      2. philbo

        Re: I'm gonna start up my own social network

        Bugger.. owned by Worldwide Media Inc.. "". er.. *most* wanted??

        ..they suggest I make an offer..

        I looked up "" to see if that had gone (it has), to find suggested "" (available for $400) as an alternative.

        St Helena TLD is available, though: ..

        1. LinkOfHyrule
          Thumb Up


 eh? Not so much a social network more of a rival to Direct Line insurance or maybe Greenline coaches - I could imagine Crapline would do a roaring trade on the busy Bracknell-Slough-Heathrow-London route!

          Back on topic - could work marketing wise as the homepage. It's poetic too as its a shit with a slash midway through!

          Go for it I say! I promise to sign up and spread the shit amoung my friends and family! I think you're on to a winner here! Looking forward to being one of your first "shitizens"!

    2. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: I'm gonna start up my own social network

      Hasn't Louise Mensch beaten you to it ?

    3. lurker

      Re: I'm gonna start up my own social network

      I've always preferred 'Twatter'.

      Also 'Arsebook', and the useful portmanteau 'FaceTwatter'.

    4. Greg J Preece

      Re: I'm gonna start up my own social network

      Didn't someone actually make Twatter? I seem to recall the AUP saying that only abuse was allowed.

    5. h3

      Re: I'm gonna start up my own social network

      Maybe Assbook would sue you. (Things are overly broad these days).

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm gonna start up my own social network

      There is a network connecting all of us, no matter how socially isolated. This network is growing in complexity, and no-one fully understands it in all its complexity; but it links us all - our homes, our businesses, our theaters, our places of worship. Without this network, modern society as we know it would not be possible.

      This network is

      Modern Plumbing.

      (I don't have the full thing memorized, but thank you Blue Man Group.)

    7. Michael Xion

      Re: I'm gonna start up my own social network

      How about joining Facebook and twitter ......F*witter. Then all the F* wits will be in one place.

    8. Chika

      Re: I'm gonna start up my own social network

      They might try to sue the crap out of you...

  4. LinkOfHyrule

    send messages that don't have specific recipients

    Junkmail in other words!

  5. James Boag

    re Shitter

    I would follow you, but from a distance !

  6. philbo


    There are some aspects I guess I haven't thought through properly.

    But it would probably need craptags and shatsigns.

  7. Tom 38

    I dont speak lawyer

    7. The method of claim 1, wherein translating the update message into an appropriate format comprises translating from a Latin based language to a double byte type based language.

    £100 says that in the code that implements this claim, the word "iconv" is used somewhere.

  8. Tom 35

    Agreement to keep control of those patents in the hands of engineers and designers

    Right up to the point that someone sees a few dollar signs. Then it's all "we must maximise return for our stake holders"...

  9. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Death threats and horrible mutilation threats SHALL be on the lower end of the reaction scale


  10. Herby

    The problem with "prior art"...

    Is that the patent office only sees prior art as what is already patented, not that which is already in use for many a year. This is FUNDAMENTAL to the problem with the USPTO. Their vision of prior art is flawed in many ways. They run on the assumption that everything should be patented. Most (hopefully) software people (not companies) are on the assumption that "software is good" and release it willingly without patent restrictions.

    So, the cycle goes on and on. We get people who try to parse the differences in words ("is") and we spend time in legal battles when it would be more productive to write better software instead. Just think if the basics of the internet had been patented back in the day (I shudder at the thought).

    1. Charles Manning

      Flawed? It's working fine thank you.

      The USPTO is directed by two bodies: Uncle Sam and patent lawyers. For them the current patent system works fine and there is no need to change anything.

      Uncle Sam makes a nice little revenue stream from USPTO. Just make it easy to get patents and more people will apply and more $$$. There is no QA - you can't sue Uncle Sam for issuing a crap patent that kills your business.

      And the patent lawyers love it too. Quite a nice income for cranking through patent applications. However the real money comes when patents are challenged and the whole lot goes to court. This is far mre likely to happen with crap patents than with good, so where's the motivation to improve patent quality?

  11. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Use it or lose it.

    It's complete twaddle to say that the patent is only going to be used "defensively". In the US if you hold a patent and it can be shown that you know your patent was violated and you did nothing about it, you forfeit the patent. So Twitter MUST go after anybody violating any claim of the patent.

    I had a manufacturing company and one aspect of a product I made violated the patent of a competitor. They did finally contact me, or rather, their lawyers contacted me and I faxed (it was a while ago) them "prior art" from a book published in the 1950's that had a nice drawing of what they patented. I received another letter from the lawyers that essentially said in 4 or 5 paragraphs, "Never Mind". The interesting bit was that the book I had was well known in the industry and in most libraries of engineers in that field. I hope they spent loads of money getting that patent. <eg>

    1. ratfox


      You don't need to defend your patent to keep it. You are thinking about trademarks.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Use it or lose it.

      You do not have to utilize the litigious benefit of your patent (right to sue is the the sole benefit of a patent). This is what allows patent trolls to exist.

      You do have to enforce trademarks or the name will get hoovered up by common use.

  12. Mr Young

    I Patent yesterday!

    All your prior art now belong to me...strokes cat and etc

  13. BOYD1981

    If you think about it they're just protecting themselves from Apple, I imagine that if they got hold of that patent a lot of other sites would definitely have good reason to be worried.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Did they just successfully patent the magazine subscription?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm gonna start my own social network for informants.

    I'll call it Tattler.

  16. Crisp

    I wrote a website with a mechanism that did something similar over ten years ago

    I didn't patent it because I thought it was bloody obvious.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CB radio

    Yet another case of prior art.

  18. Allan Thomas


    They are using this for defensive purposes but isn't the best defense a good offense.

  19. daveeff

    At last...

    .. way to make money from the web.

    twitter is now worth a lost of dosh given it can sue everybody else in the world

  20. lightknight


    So, I think we need to do the unthinkable. We need to dig up Albert Einstein, clone him a few dozen times, and ask his clones to fix our patent system.

    He did work, for a time, as a patent examiner, right?

    1. Crisp

      Re: Hmmm

      Yeah, who needs a Grand Unified Theory of physics anyway?

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