Twitter founders Jack Dorsey and Christopher "Biz" Stone have been awarded a patent which describes a platform agnostic, multi-point message broadcast system and methods. When all said and done, USPTO application 60951415 essentially describes the core of the Twitter's microblogging service -- effectively patenting itself.
Originally filed for in 2007 (Twitter was born in 2006), the accepted application describes a messaging service without specific recipients -- as opposed direct message services with defined recipients, like SMS, IMs and e-mail -- delivered to an aggregator (i.e. Twitter feed) which can be viewed by a plurality of followers at numerous end-points (e.g. mobile phones, email, websites). This is very much how Twitter operates.
Presumably, Twitter's newly awarded patent could put any microblogging site -- particularly ones like app.net -- in a precarious position. The now defunct Google Buzz, for example, would have been in danger of violating the filing. Other social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, may also be treading thin ice.
However, Twitter has shown a great deal of fair-mindedness when it comes to patents. In the past, the microblogging site has openly denounced patent warfare.
"Like many companies, we apply for patents on a bunch of our inventions." Twitter told The Verge. "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."
Twitter's Innovator's Patent Agreement was launched last year. The initiative essentially states that Twitter will only use its patents to defend itself from lawsuits. With such a seemingly broad patent though, social media empires and struggling startups alike will most likely be watching Twitter closely.