BlackBerry unveils bold new strategy: Suing the c**p out of Facebook

Old RIM job on Zuck's bucks, WhatsApp, Instagram named

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Updated Smartphone market wraith BlackBerry has launched a legal offensive accusing Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram of patent infringement.

In a chunky 117-page filing [PDF] to the Los Angeles US District court, the Canadian software house says that the three social media giants are all basing their messaging tools on technology ripped off from BlackBerry Messenger.

"Defendants created mobile messaging applications that co-opt BlackBerry’s innovations, using a number of the innovative security, user interface, and functionality enhancing features that made BlackBerry’s products such a critical and commercial success in the first place," the suit claims.

None of the three have responded to a request for comment.

The patents in question cover some of the basic functions of mobile messaging software and security.

  • 7,372,961: Method of public key generation. Described as "a potential bias in the generation or a private key is avoided by selecting the key and comparing it against the system parameters. If a predetermined condition is attained it is accepted. If not it is rejected and a new key is generated."
  • 8,279,173: User interface for selecting a photo tag. "There is disclosed a user interface for selecting a photo tag. In an embodiment, the user interface embodies a method of selecting a photo tag for a tagged photo, comprising: providing a tag entry field for entering a photo tag; in dependence upon a string entered by a user, displaying in a matching tag list any tags from one or more selected tag sources matching the entered string."
  • 8,209,634: Previewing a new event on a small screen device. "Individual applications are each represented by an application icon on a screen of a graphical user interface for the device. When a new event occurs, particularly when the new event relates to a specific one of a plurality of similar applications, the invention provides a convenient way to denote which application relates to the event. In response to a new event of a one of the applications, the application's icon is visually modified to notify of the new event."
  • 8,301,713: Handheld electronic device and associated method providing time data in a messaging environment. "An improved handheld electronic device and an associated method are provided in which time data regarding certain aspects of a messaging conversation on a handheld electronic device are made available to a user. Such time data is provided, for instance, in situations where an interruption has occurred during a messaging conversation."
  • 8,429,236: Transmission of status updates responsive to status of recipient application. "During one mode of operation, a mobile communications device transmits status messages using a conservative message transmission mode. This allows the mobile communications device to transmit a greater number of status updates for future processing by the recipient application while conserving resources."
  • 8,677,250: System and method for switching between an instant messaging conversation and a game in progress. "Enabling a game application on the electronic device to utilize a contact list for an instant messaging application, during a game in progress with a particular contact in the contact list, preparing game messages to be sent to the particular contact by including game progress data, communicating at least one game message during the game in progress with the particular contact using an instant messaging system used by the instant messaging application; displaying at least one instant message in an instant messaging conversation user interface; and displaying a game in progress user interface associated with the game play, after detecting a selection in the instant messaging conversation user interface to switch to the game in progress."
  • 9,349,120: System and method for silencing notifications for a message thread. " A user can select to silence a message thread. Once a message thread has been silenced, the user will no longer receive notifications of new messages added to the thread."

BlackBerry tells The Register it has been in talks with all three companies for years in an effort to strike a licensing deal, to no avail.

"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," the company said in a statement.

"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."

Now, BlackBerry is seeking a jury trial to determine damages as well as an order enjoining the three companies from offering software that infringes on its patents.

What is far more likely an outcome is a deal between BlackBerry and the three social networking firms to settle the case and ink a licensing deal out of court.

Patent litigation has proven to be a fruitful pursuit for BlackBerry. Last April, a long-running case with Qualcomm ended in an $814m arbitration award for the company. ®

Updated to add

Facebook General Counsel Paul Grewal said his company plans to fight the case.

"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," Grewal said in a statement provided to El Reg.

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