Facebook’s tools use technology and interface patents from the once-popular BlackBerry Messenger platform, claims the Canadian company’s lawsuit
Canadian software maker BlackBerry has filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram applications, alleging the software uses technology and features that originated with BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).
BlackBerry launched BBM in 2005, more than six years before Facebook had a similar service, according to the lawsuit. At the time BlackBerry was a dominant seller of smartphones, representing more than half of the market as recently as 2009.
BBM was a popular service in its day, but was initially tied to BlackBerry devices, which quickly lost ground when Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android arrived on the scene. The app was noted for its use by rioters during unrest in London in 2011.
The lawsuit, filed in a Los Angeles federal court, alleges the defendants “created mobile messaging applications that co-opt BlackBerry’s innovations, using a number of the innovative security, user interface, and functionality-enhancing features”.
The patents listed in the lawsuit include a method for publc key generation in generating a secure connection, as well as basic user interface features such as modifying an app’s icon to show there’s a new message and time-stamping messages on a mobile device.
BlackBerry said it has been negotiating with Facebook for “several years”.
“We have a strong claim that Facebook has infringed on our intellectual property, and after several years of dialogue, we also have an obligation to our shareholders to pursue appropriate legal remedies,” a BlackBerry spokeswoman stated.
Facebook said it plans to challenge the lawsuit, which asks for a jury trial.
“Blackberry’s suit sadly reflects the current state of its messaging business,” said Facebook general counsel Paul Grewal in an emailed statement. “Having abandoned its efforts to innovate Blackberry is now looking to tax the innovation of others.”
BlackBerry stopped making smartphones in 2016, and filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Nokia in February 2017. The case is pending in federal court in Delaware.
Last year Qualcomm paid $940 million (£678m) to BlackBerry to resolve royalty-payments litigation.
In October BlackBerry said it had settled with Florida-based Blu Products, which makes low-cost mobile devices, for an undisclosed sum following a patent lawsuit.
Founded in 1984, BlackBerry has more than 40,000 global technology patents covering areas such as operating systems, networking infrastructure, acoustics, messaging, automotive subsystems, cybersecurity and wireless communications.
The company makes the QNX real-time operating system and the AtHoc crisis communications platform and sells software and services used by governments, car companies and enterprises.
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