It is shocking to see what BlackBerry really owns.
News broke early this morning that BlackBerry had filed suit against Facebook and it’s subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram. The suit is due to patent infringement. Anyone that has grown up with BlackBerry and BBM, who has tried competing messenger applications, will have no doubt that most messengers take from BBM. Indeed, looking at the mobile tech arena, borrowing features and functionality is commonplace now.
The question arises though, who owns these individual parts of the whole? Who has the patents for these processes. Things such as delivered and read receipts on messages are commonplace now, across all the platforms. Something as common as message notifiers that tell us how many messages are awaiting us. There is no question who was first. Have these newcomers been licensing this IP from BlackBerry all along? Well, there’s really no way for we users to know this, until something like this lawsuit comes along.
I took the time to read the 117 page complaint filed by BlackBerry. Even as a longtime BlackBerry and BBM user, I have to admit I was shocked. I was shocked by how much of what is now commonplace within messenger applications, are actually patented IP created, owned, and still being used and developed by BlackBerry. I was also shocked that a company as large as Facebook, could have been utilizing this IP without a licensing agreement. I’m further left wondering, how many others are doing the same?
Earlier today, the website Recode wrote about the lawsuit. While pointing out that Facebook has a history of copying competitors products, the author chose to decide the merit of the claim themselves.
“Facebook has copied numerous competitor products in the past, from Foursquare check-ins to Snapchat facial features and Stories. But the tech industry evolves so quickly and companies borrow so many ideas from one another that oftentimes these “copycat” products don’t actual merit an expensive, drawn-out legal battle.
But that might be what BlackBerry is looking for here. The company seems to be using its tens of thousands of patents as a kind of business model.”
BlackBerry responded to Recode with a statement.
“Protecting shareholder assets and intellectual property is the job of every CEO, it is not central to BlackBerry’s strategy however…We have 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. However, 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.”
Recode seemingly attempted to paint BlackBerry in the light of being a “patent troll” which is simply an irresponsible tactic to take. Patent trolls are known as simply holding on to patents, usually having bought the patents from other companies, and utilizing these patents as a method for income through the use of lawsuits. This is far from the case for BlackBerry. BlackBerry, much to the chagrin of websites such as Recode, is still a living breathing company still producing products and services. BlackBerry is still innovating, and the product which they created in BBM is still a product in active development, and fighting for market share. Should someone else be able to steal the innovative ideas behind this product, the very things that will bring users, and use those ideas to compete against BlackBerry while not paying the creator of these ideas their due? I don’t believe so. I believe there are laws in place for this very thing. And I wish BlackBerry luck in using those laws in the proper way in this David vs. Goliath scenario.
You can read the entire complaint filed by BlackBerry’s legal team below.