Twitter accused of violating a patent

Bloomberg News / August 6, 2009

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WASHINGTON - Twitter Inc. was sued by a Texas company seeking royalties on patents for sending one message to a large group of people.

TechRadium Inc., which sells the Immediate Response Information System, or IRIS, filed a patent-infringement complaint Tuesday in federal court in Houston. It wants cash compensation and a court order to prevent further use of its invention by San Francisco-based Twitter.

The dispute started because companies and municipalities plan to use Twitter for emergency notification, such as with hurricanes, cutting into TechRadium’s business, the company said.

Twitter’s “core functionality is squarely within the technology described by TechRadium’s patents,’’ said W. Shawn Staples, the lawyer who filed the suit.

Twitter had 21 million unique visitors in June, making it the fourth-most popular social-media website, researcher Nielsen Co. said.

The three TechRadium patents relate to a “digital notification and response system.’’ Its service is used by utilities to alert customers of outages and by schools to send messages to students and faculty.