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Twitter Survives Patent Challenges Over Tweets

(CN) - A federal jury in Norfolk, Va., sided with Twitter in a case claiming that the U.S.'s largest microblogging service infringed on a patent for building virtual communities.

VS Technologies was founded by patent attorney Dinesh Agarwal in September, allegedly as a vehicle to promote his invention, but possibly just to prosecute this case.

The company demanded a portion of the Twitter's revenue for the alleged use of its patented technology. One of its experts suggested it would be entitled to between $11 and $41 million.

In VS Technologies' complaint, the patent is described as "a method and system for creating an interactive virtual community of famous people. Generally speaking, the 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."

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Morgan denied Twitter's motion for summary judgment, finding that genuine issues of fact remained. "The court cannot find as a matter of law that Twitter does not infringe the patent," Morgan said.

According to the judgment, Twitter argued that the steps outlined in the patent are so broad and abstract that they "could in principle be performed in someone's mind and with a pen and paper." As such, the patent was allegedly invalid because it claims an abstract idea consisting of mental processes.

Twitter also argued that the patent was anticipated by other services that used similar technologies, such as the computerized Who's Who services that allow people to interact with their profiles in real time. VS Technologies disputed this claim, characterizing Who's Who as "a computerized directory, similar to the printed version or an old yellow pages phone book," rather than a virtual community.

This past Monday, however, Twitter successfully convinced the jury, which ruled on all seven patent claims that Agarwal's patent was "anticipated, obvious, or abstract."

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