Twitter is being sued again, and this time it isn’t some angry baseball manager who doesn’t like people impersonating him on the service. This time it is a little more serious. Twitter is being sued for patent infringement by TechRadium, a Texas-based technology company which makes mass notification systems for public safety organizations, the military, and utilities.
TechRadium is basically claiming that it thought up the whole concept of mass notifications first, and points to three issued patents: Nos. 7,130,389, 7,496,183, and 7,519,165. According to the lawsuit, which was filed yesterday on August 4, 2009 in Houston, Texas (full document embedded at bottom of post):
TechRadium develops, sells, and services mass notification systems that allow a group administrator or “message Author” to originate a single message that will be delivered simultaneously via multiple communication gateways to members of a group of “message Subscribers.” A member of a subscriber group can receive such message in their choice of any combination of voice message, text message e-mail and so on. This technology is patented by the Plaintiff, TechRadium, and marketed under the trade name “IRIS”™ (Immediate Response Information System). Among other things, the patented IRIS™ technology eliminated the need for an Author to send multiple identical messages, and allowed Subscribers to select the most convenient form of notification for them.
Twitter works across text messaging and e-mail, but not voicemail (yet). The very concept of unifying different message communication systems is what is in dispute here. Whatever the merits of the lawsuit, you can’t say Twitter didn’t see this one coming. Way back in a February, 2009 strategy meeting (see Twitter Papers), the company discussed potential legal threats.
• We will be sued for patent infringement, repeatedly and often.
• Should we get a great patent attorney to proactively go after these patents (We need to talk about this more, we are unsatisfied)
I hope it hired that “great patent attorney” because this could just be the beginning.