BlackBerry Sues Ryan Seacrest’s Smartphone Keyboard Startup

BlackBerry, the struggling mobile device maker, filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Typo Products, the startup co-founded by Ryan Seacrest that has developed a smartphone keyboard attachment.

Asked for comment, Typo Products said, “Although we respect BlackBerry and its intellectual property, we believe that Blackberry’s claims against Typo lack merit and we intend to defend the case vigorously.”

Steve Zipperstein, BlackBerry’s general counsel and chief legal officer, said in a statement, “This is a blatant infringement against BlackBerry’s iconic keyboard, and we will vigorously protect our intellectual property against any company that attempts to copy our unique design,”

SEE ALSO: Ryan Seacrest Co-Founded a Startup Making an iPhone Keyboard

Seacrest, the entrepreneur, producer and media personality whose gigs include hosting Fox’s “American Idol,” founded Typo Products with real-estate mogul Laurence Hallier. The two have invested about $1 million in the venture. The L.A.-based startup plans to demo the $99 keyboard attachment at the 2014 International CES next week, and said it is on track to start shipping it later this month. The keyboard is designed to reduce fat-finger typos (hence the name) with a physical keyboard.

BlackBerry filed its complaint Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (docket no. 3:14-cv-00023). The lawsuit against Typo alleges patent infringement and that Typo “blatantly copied BlackBerry’s keyboard” with the keyboard case designed to snap on to iPhones.

Zipperstein said in the statement, “From the beginning, BlackBerry has always focused on offering an exceptional typing experience that combines a great design with ergonomic excellence. We are flattered by the desire to graft our keyboard onto other smartphones, but we will not tolerate such activity without fair compensation for using our intellectual property and our technological innovations.”

BlackBerry, a mobile pioneer that launched its first smart device in 1999, has lost share in recent years to Apple’s iPhone and devices based on Google’s Android operating system. Last month the Waterloo, Ontario, Canada-based company posted a $4.4 billion net loss. That in part included charges related to its previously announced restructuring under which BlackBerry is cutting 4,500 jobs, or 40% of its workforce.

Separately, on Thursday, BlackBerry said singer Alicia Keys — whom it had hired as “global creative director” in January 2013 — would no longer be working with the company as of the end of this month.

BlackBerry changed its name from Research In Motion last January. The company’s patent portfolio is worth $2 billion to $3 billion, according to investment bank MDB Capital. In 2006, Research In Motion paid $612.5 million to patent-holding firm NTP, settling NTP’s patent-infringement lawsuit against RIM.

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