Twitter granted pull-to-refresh patent that everyone already uses (and sort of gives it away)

Image Credit: Design Work

Today, Twitter was officially granted U.S. Patent #8,448,084 for an mobile app invention: Pull to refresh. That is, of course, the same gesture-based user interface control that many apps already use — such as major Twitter social media rival Facebook.

The mechanics of the innovation are simple and have already added the lexicon of gestures that most mobile users have already become familiar with: Pull the user interface down to force the app to refresh its current view.

But thanks to Twitter’s innovator’s patent agreement (IPA), the business and legal ramifications are just about as easy.

Facebook's mobile app on iOS uses a version of pull-to-refresh

Above: Facebook’s mobile app on iOS uses a version of pull-to-refresh

Image Credit: John Koetsier

As The Verge notes, Twitter’s IPA was released as a 1.0 spec today as releasing it in draft form early in 2012. And the IPA is in full effect for this most recent Twitter patent.

Loren Brichter, the developer who created pull-to-refresh — which Twitter acquired in 2010 when it bought Tweetie — was concerned about how Twitter would use his patent. So concerned, in fact, that he asked Twitter to agree with him as part of the terms of the sale of his company that it would never use the patent offensively.

This means, according to the IPA, any company that has not initiated offensive patent litigation in the past decade is safe. Defensive use of the patent, however is permitted by the IPA if the following terms are true:

  1. If a company “has filed, maintained, threatened, or voluntarily participated in a patent infringement lawsuit against Assignee or any of Assignee’s users, affiliates, customers, suppliers, or distributors.”
  2. Or, if a company :has filed, maintained, or voluntarily participated in a patent infringement lawsuit against another in the past 10 years.”
  3. And finally, “to deter a patent litigation threat against Assignee or Assignee’s users, affiliates, customers, suppliers, or distributors.”

There’s one more loophole for offensive patent action if the above do not apply: if the company that owns the patent asks the engineers responsible for creating the intellectual property for written permission.

Overall, however, this is a significant step to making patents better and reducing the impact of patent trolling and patent lawsuits — if other companies adopt it in large numbers.

“We hope the adoption of the IPA will spur constructive dialogue on making patent system work better for companies, inventors, and policymakers alike,” Twitter’s Ben Lee wrote today.

Image credits: Twitter icons


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