BlackBerry Sues Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, Alleging Patent Infringement

Mobile-technology firm BlackBerry has sued Facebook, along with its Instagram and WhatsApp subsidiaries, charging that the social giant has co-opted BlackBerry’s mobile-messaging technology.

BlackBerry is seeking an injunction that would effectively force Facebook to shut down applications and websites including Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp Messenger, and Instagram. In addition, BlackBerry is asking for unspecified monetary damages “including an enhancement of damages on account of Defendants’ willful infringement,” according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in a California federal court.

A Facebook rep provided a statement by Paul Grewal, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, on the legal action: “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. We intend to fight.”

Founded in 1984, BlackBerry had once been a top mobile-device manufacturer, but saw its early lead in the space crumble in the face of competition from Apple’s iPhone and smartphones based on Google’s Android. Now BlackBerry has re-positioned itself as “a leading cybersecurity software and services company dedicated to securing the Enterprise of Things.”

In a statement, BlackBerry said, “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.”

BlackBerry alleges in its lawsuit that Facebook and its companies created mobile-messaging applications infringe on BlackBerry patents covering security, user interface features, battery-efficient status updates, and integrating mobile messaging in games.

“These features, all invented by BlackBerry, are ‘table stakes’ for modern mobile messaging and social networking,” BlackBerry argued in the complaint against Facebook. It also said that the importance of mobile messaging “is emphasized by the reported $19 billion Facebook spent to acquire WhatsApp.”

The BlackBerry alleges Facebook’s apps and sites infringe seven U.S. patents owned by BlackBerry: U.S. Patent Nos. 7,372,961; 8,279,173; 8,209,634; 8,301,713; 8,429,236; 8,677,250; and 9,349,120.

BlackBerry filed the lawsuit against Facebook, Instagram and WhatApp on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The docket number is 2:18-cv-01844.

After exiting the mobile-device biz in 2016, BlackBerry has said it would pursue a strategy of trying to boost revenue from licensing its portfolio of around 40,000 patents. Last year the company sued Nokia, alleging Nokia’s telecom equipment infringed BlackBerry intellectual property.

Also last year, BlackBerry reached a settlement with Qualcomm, under which Qualcomm agreed to pay $940 million to BlackBerry to resolve a dispute over royalty payments.

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