The US patent office has granted two of the three co-founders of Twitter, Jack Dorsey (also CEO of Square) and Biz Stone (real name Christopher Isaac Stone), a patent for the service. Oddly the third founder Evan Williams is not listed in the patent.
Twitter's patent 8,401,009 was issued today and is described as:
A system (and method) for device-independent point to multipoint communication is disclosed. The system is configured to receive a message addressed to one or more destination users, the message type being, for example, Short Message Service (SMS), Instant Messaging (IM), E-mail, web form input, or Application Program Interface (API) function call. The system also is configured to determine information about the destination users, the information comprising preferred devices and interfaces for receiving messages, the information further comprising message receiving preferences. The system applies rules to the message based on destination user information to determine the message endpoints, the message endpoints being, for example, Short Message Service (SMS), Instant Messaging (IM), E-mail, web page output, or Application Program Interface (API) function call. The system translates the message based on the destination user information and message endpoints and transmits the message to each endpoint of the message.
While Dorsey helped create Twitter he is no longer actively involved in the company, however he does remain chairman.
Last year Twitter revealed the Innovators Patent's Agreement which outlines rules to ensure that work created by designers and developers would remain with the creators. In a post on the Twitter blog, Adam Messinger the current CTO said that the company would only utilise patents that it acquires for "defensive purposes," so the company is unlikely to pursue any litigation against competing services. In the post Twitter also added that it will not use the patents from employees' inventions in offensive litigation without their permission.
Source: US Patent Office