Twitter is arguably one of today’s hottest companies.  In its early days, Twitter suffered from frequent outages due to spikes in demand.  However, these problems appear to be well in the rearview mirror.  The company launched in July 2006 and so it would be expected that within the past five years Twitter has amassed an impressive IP portfolio, specifically focusing on its backend technology.

However, a search of the USPTO patent assignment database reveals only a single* U.S. patent application.  As you may recall, in April 2010, Twitter acquired Tweetie, an iPhone client.  One of the features that made Tweetie so desirable was the ability to pull down the feed to refresh the stream of tweets.  Soon after, it was noted that immediately prior to its acquisition, Loren Brichter, the developer of Tweetie filed a patent application (U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2010/0199180) on the pull down to refresh concept.  The filing date of the patent is listed April 8, 2010, whereas the twitter blog revealed the Tweetie acquisition on April 10 of the same year.  Brichter tweeted that the filing of the application was a good thing for the developer community.

http://twitter.com/#!/atebits/status/21688511155

However, regardless Brichter’s intentions, Twitter now owns the application and may have entirely different views on its purpose.  Since the application was filed, many other applications have adopted the pull down to refresh technique in their apps.  Therefore, this application may become a valuable asset for Twitter if it is allowed by the USPTO. Thus, though the USPTO has not yet began examining this application, its progress through the USPTO bears watching.

However, the timing of the filing of the application with respect to the acquisition is interesting.  It is likely that the decision was made to draft the application long before the April 8 filing date to give the attorneys sufficient time to prepare the application.  Still, it is difficult to speculate how much, if any, value Twitter put into the patent application as the filing likely came up during the negotiations leading up to the acquisition.

In addition to the patent application, Twitter has a number of active trademarks, including word marks and design marks on its own terms such as “TWITTER”, “TWEET”, “RETWEET” and “COTWEET”, and some that were acquired from its purchase of TweetDeck (“TWEETDECK” and “THEDECK”).

*As always, please note that any unpublished applications would not appear in the assignment search so it is possible that Twitter has other unpublished patent applications.