You (unless you’re ashamed to admit it) follow Justin Bieber on Twitter. Or Ashton Kutcher. Or Lady Gaga. The perception that you’re one tweet away from your favorite star, author, musician or CEO is a huge appeal for Twitter, and it is part of the reason its growth exploded over the past two years. But, all this might come to a screeching halt if the company behind a new lawsuit has anything to do with it.
TechCrunch reported today that VS Technologies is suing Twitter for infringing on their patent for a virtual community of famous people interacting with one another.
Yes, this company claims to have exclusive rights to facilitate 50 Cent and Conan O’Brien connecting online. And they say Twitter is stepping on their toes by allowing these celebs to meet up virtually.
Here is the relevant text of the patent lawsuit pertaining to Twitter’s apparent infringement:
As it pertains to this lawsuit, very generally speaking, the ’309 Patent discloses methods and systems for creating interactive, virtual communities of people in various fields of endeavor wherein each community member has an interactive, personal profile containing information about that member.
While most would roll their eyes at the suit – like I did when I first read about it – this could pose a problem for Twitter and other social networks. Not that Twitter stands any chance of losing the suit. But the fact that a company can claim to have exclusive rights over a “virtual community of people in various fields wherein each community member has a personal profile” is a potential headache for the entire social media industry. Almost every social network has a community of people with profiles attached to each.
Twitter will no doubt come out of this unscathed, but there could be more of these vague patent holders waiting in the wings.