The defining feature of the modern BlackBerry is its keyboard, easily accessible for business professionals on the go. So it makes sense that the Canadian smartphone maker is seeking to protect its keyboard IP rights at all costs, bad news for Ryan Seacrest-backed start-up tech company Typo Products LLC.
BlackBerry filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Typo in a California district court on Jan. 3, claiming Typo copied BlackBerry’s keyboard design with its new iPhone keyboard accessory. The $99 Typo keyboard is set to go on sale later this month.
According to the Wall Street Journal, BlackBerry GC Steve Zipperstein said Typo’s design was “blatant infringement against BlackBerry's iconic keyboard.” Zipperstein also vowed to pursue further patent litigation, saying BlackBerry “will vigorously protect our intellectual property against any company that attempts to copy our unique design.” In a release, BlackBerry did not specify exactly which elements of the Typo design violated copyright.
For its part, Typo does not believe they have done anything wrong and plans to fight BlackBerry’s allegations. In an interview with the WSJ, Typo CEO Laurence Hallier claimed the company still plans to ship its keyboards at the end of the month, and also said, “We checked out the patents. We have been working on this keyboard for two years. We developed this from the ground up.”
The patent lawsuit may be a last chance grasp for the smartphone maker. Companies such as Lenovo are looking into a possible BlackBerry purchase, and an August 2013 ScotiaBank estimate of BlackBerry’s patent portfolio values it at $2.25 billion, a large portion of BlackBerry’s $4 billion valuation. For companies that can successfully navigate the Investment Canada Act, successfully-defended BlackBerry patents could represent a giant windfall.
However, there is also pending legislation to worry about concerning BlackBerry stock. On Oct. 3, 2013, investor Martin Perlman filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the company, claiming BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins and CFO Brian Bidulka schemed to deliberately deceive investors concerning the company’s health and potential sales of the company’s BlackBerry 10 line of phone. And considering how Apple and Samsung have taken the lead in the smartphone market, other investors could be getting antsy as well.
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