Facebook Sued by BlackBerry On Patents -- WSJ

03/07/18 02:47 AM EST
By David George-Cosh 

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (March 7, 2018).

TORONTO -- BlackBerry Ltd. claimed in a lawsuit Tuesday that Facebook Inc. and its WhatsApp and Instagram units have infringed its patents and swiped intellectual property from its BlackBerry Messenger technology.

In its 117-page court filing in U.S. federal court in Los Angeles, BlackBerry says 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 that made BlackBerry's products such a critical and commercial success in the first place."

The suit alleges the defendants improperly used BlackBerry's intellectual property that streamlines notifications to "prevent users from being inundated," as well as the display of time stamps on messages and the tagging of friends and family in social-media photographs.

The suit also claims the defendants co-opted innovation that allows users to more easily interact while playing mobile games.

The Canadian company hasn't said how much it wants in financial compensation from Facebook, but requested a jury trial.

"We have a lot of respect for Facebook and the value they've placed on messaging capabilities, some of which were invented by BlackBerry," said Sarah McKinney, BlackBerry's head of corporate communications. "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."

Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 and it bought WhatsApp, a mobile messaging app, for $19 billion two years later. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company said it plans to contest BlackBerry's lawsuit.

"BlackBerry's suit sadly reflects the current state of its messaging business," Facebook deputy general counsel Paul Grewal said. "Having abandoned its efforts to innovate, BlackBerry is now looking to tax the innovation of others. We intend to fight."

BlackBerry's lawsuit comes nearly a year after it was awarded $815 million in patent royalties by Qualcomm Inc. as the company, based in Waterloo, Ontario, seeks to pursue more patent deals with tech companies. In November, BlackBerry announced a deal with Teletry, a unit of the Marconi Group, to sub- license a range of the company's patents to global smartphone manufacturers.

BlackBerry's strategy of pursuing patent litigation comes more than a decade after the company agreed to pay $612.5 million to settle a long-running dispute with closely held Virginia patent firm NTP Inc.

The lawsuit threatened to shut down BlackBerry's once-popular email service at a time when its keyboard-equipped smartphones suddenly emerged as a cultural phenomenon.

However, the company's fortunes faded after a poorly executed push against rival products, such as Apple Inc.'s iPhone and devices powered by Android from Alphabet Inc.'s Google. BlackBerry announced in 2016 that it was getting out of the smartphone business, shifting production of its handsets to third-party manufacturers in Asia, as it refocused its efforts on its cybersecurity software business.

--Deepa Seetharaman contributed to this article.

Write to David George-Cosh at david.george-cosh@wsj.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 07, 2018 02:47 ET (07:47 GMT)

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