Web Posted: 08/06/2009 12:00 CDT Twitter is sued by Texas company
By Susan Decker - Bloomberg
Twitter Inc., the social networking service that lets users post short comments called tweets, has been 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 the patent-infringement complaint Tuesday in federal court in Houston.
TechRadium 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 have said they'd use Twitter for emergency notification, such as with hurricanes, cutting into TechRadium's business, the company said.
“TechRadium has spent a lot of time and money developing our technology, and we will potentially lose any reward for our efforts if Twitter continues its unlicensed use of our technology,” TechRadium General Counsel Louis Vetrano said.
Twitter's “core functionality is squarely within the technology described by TechRadium's patents,” said Shawn Staples, the lawyer who filed the suit on TechRadium's behalf.
Twitter began in August 2006 and was incorporated in May 2007, according to the company's Web site. It's become popular with celebrities, politicians and sports figures and had 21 million unique visitors in June, making it the fourth-most popular social media Web site, researcher Nielsen Co. said.
The three TechRadium patents relate to a “digital notification and response system,” the company said. Its service is used by utilities to alert customers of outages, schools to send messages to students and faculty, and the U.S. Army for soldiers and supply managers, according to the company's Web site.
TechRadium, based in Sugar Land, also is involved in patent litigation with Blackboard Inc., which makes software that lets school districts send out alerts to the mobile phones of students' parents. Each has accused the other of infringing patents for messaging systems.
A Twitter spokeswoman didn't return messages seeking comment. Twitter is sued by Texas company