Today Twitter announced its new Innovator's Patent Agreement (IPA), which will give its engineers and designers control over the patents they create.

This is a dramatic break from the current approach in Silicon Valley, where companies take full control of patents and can then sell them or use them in lawsuits. "With the IPA, employees can be assured that their patents will be used only as a shield rather than as a weapon," Twitter wrote in its announcement.

The IPA will apply retroactively to patents created in the past. Twitter says it will implement the agreement later this year.

Twitter has had its share of patent litigation. In October of last year, patent lawyer Dinesh Agarwal claimed Twitter infringed on his patent for a "method and system for creating an interactive virtual community of famous people." A court rejected Twitter's attempt to get the case dismissed, and it moved to trial. The judge pressured Twitter to settle with the patent holder but Twitter eventually won; a federal jury in Norfolk, Virginia, sided with the company.

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