Twitter - the actual concept of Twitter - is now patented.
U.S. Patent 8,401,009 just went through, with Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone listed as inventors. It's a vague and overarching concept of a "device independent message distribution platform," first filed in 2007.
Here's the abstract (aptly titled, in the situation):
A system (and method) for device-independent point to multipoint communication is disclosed. The system is configured to receive a message addressed to one or more destination users, the message type being, for example, Short Message Service (SMS), Instant Messaging (IM), E-mail, web form input, or Application Program Interface (API) function call. The system also is configured to determine information about the destination users, the information comprising preferred devices and interfaces for receiving messages, the information further comprising message receiving preferences.
The system applies rules to the message based on destination user information to determine the message endpoints, the message endpoints being, for example, Short Message Service (SMS), Instant Messaging (IM), E-mail, web page output, or Application Program Interface (API) function call. The system translates the message based on the destination user information and message endpoints and transmits the message to each endpoint of the message.
The patent makes it clear that the service is for messages that don't have specific recipients themselves - messages that are maintained by a system and broadcast to all users, or "followers."
"Like many companies, we apply for patents on a bunch of our inventions. 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," said Twitter in a statement, confirming the patent.
"Look Ma, I'm officially an inventor (my dream as a kid)!" said Biz Stone in a tweet.[USPTO via The Verge]