Close to a decade ago BlackBerry was one of the most popular mobile phone providers. BlackBerrys were known for their signature rollerball, keyboard, and BlackBerry messenger (BBM); functions diehard BlackBerry users still miss. Now, BlackBerry is in the business of providing business software and services, among other things, to large corporations and government entities.

BlackBerry recently made headlines by suing Facebook regarding its Instagram and WhatsApp platforms over messaging technology that BlackBerry is alleging they invented years ago.

Before messaging services and apps became popular, BlackBerry had BBM, one of the first forms of instant communication.  Users could instantly share content such as videos and images, form chat groups, receive and send unlimited messages as well as receive live confirmations when messages are sent, received and viewed.

According to BlackBerry, this lawsuit has been a long time coming and is something Facebook should have expected. The two companies have had open dialogues about negotiations on this issue for years. According to BlackBerry, Facebook “created mobile messaging applications that co-opt BlackBerry’s innovations, using a number of the innovative security, user interface, and functionality enhancing features.” Sarah McKinney, spokeswoman for BlackBerry, stated “[p]rotecting shareholder assets and intellectual property is the job of every CEO.” McKinney did note, however, that litigation was “not central to BlackBerry’s strategy.” 

This is not the first lawsuit BlackBerry has instituted over technologies they hold patents on. The company has over 40,000 patents globally covering cybersecurity, wireless communication, operating systems and network infrastructures, to name a few. The company has also begun testing the waters with cybersecurity software programs for autonomous vehicles. Blackberry is wanting companies to pay licensing royalties over these technologies, a move some have referred to as “trolling”.  

A representative for BlackBerry commented that their company has “a lot of respect for Facebook and the value they’ve placed on messaging capabilities, some of which were invented by BlackBerry. As a cybersecurity and embedded software leader, BlackBerry’s view is that Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp could make great partners in our drive toward a securely connected future, and we continue to hold this door open to them.”

Paul Grewal, deputy general counsel for Facebook, does not share the same sentiment, stating, “Blackberry’s suit sadly reflects the current state of its messaging business. Having abandoned its efforts to innovate, Blackberry is now looking to tax the innovation of others. We intend to fight.”

BlackBerry has settled many lawsuits over their patented technologies, some of which with large companies like Cisco, Avaya, Qualcomm, and phone manufacturer Blu Products. Most of these cases settled out of court but it will be interesting to see how Facebook proceeds as they are a large corporation that has the financial means to see this move to trial.

Suiter Swantz IP is a full-service intellectual property law firm, based in Omaha, NE, serving all of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. If you have any intellectual property questions or need assistance with any patenttrademark, or copyright matters and would like to speak with one of our patent attorneys please contact us.