Yesterday the United States Patent and Trademark Office had bad news for a particularly broad member of Twitter's key patent family, U.S. Patent No. 9,088,532 on a "device[-]independent message disribution platform." As I reported in March, the '532 patent is being reexamined based on a patent application by independent Indian inventor Yogesh Rathod as well as a couple of other prior art references. The reexamination requested related to claims 1-3, 8, 9, 13-15, 17, 20, and 21, all of which are being reexamined. In a (first) Office communication since opening the reexamination proceedings, the USPTO has held all of the reexamined claims invalid, challenging Twitter to persuade the examiner that its patent claims should be upheld. Here's the Office communication (this post continues below the document):
All of the claims under reexamination have been found to have been anticipated by Yogesh Rathod's international patent application. In addition, all claims but one (claim 17) are deemed non-novel in light of U.S. Patent Application with publication no. US 2011/0289574 by three Northern Californian inventors (Mark Hull, Randall Farmer, and Ellen Perelman).
Note that rejection rates are very high at this stage of proceeding. Some examiners simply reject all challenged claims in their first action in order to challenge the patentee to make the strongest case possible in defense of the patent in question. Some patent claims are rejected multiple times before finally being confirmed by the USPTO.
That said, things are looking bleak for Twitter's patent claims. To salvage those claims, Twitter would have to
overcome the non-novelty holding with respect to two different patent applications (Yogesh Rathod's application and the application by Mark Hull et al.); and then
additionally overcome any obviousness argument (the first Office action already notes that, even if one disagreed on non-novelty, a person of ordinary skill in the art could combine either one of those references with a third patent application, publication number US 2007/0105536, by George Tingo.
As for the commercial implications, let me refer you to my March post.
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