BlackBerry’s Latest Patent Claim – WhatsApp With That?

Do you find yourself missing the days of BlackBerry? The compact little device was the precursor to today’s ubiquitous smart phones. The BlackBerry Messaging (BBM) system was an excellent way to message, particularly to business colleagues as a more immediate means of communication than e-mail. Today, the trends have shifted away from the Blackberry as primarily a business tool and toward the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy for both work and play. While a friendly feud has developed between users of these current smart phone platforms, a new messaging system has entered the scene—WhatsApp.

WhatsApp is a messaging app wholly owned by Facebook. The app allows messaging between users both nationally and internationally, as well as audio and video calls. The app lets those with different phones communicate through one common system—excellent when sending emojis! However, the two platforms found themselves in some hot water this week. BlackBerry Limited sued Facebook Inc., as well as WhatsApp and Instagram for patent infringement. The claim? Facebook allegedly copied the technology used in these apps from the BBM patents.

Specifically, the lawsuit covers message encryption, battery and message notifications, and combining messaging with gaming. BlackBerry claims that Facebook and its apps are “relative latecomers to the mobile messaging world” and as such have relied on its patented technology to create the programs’ cross-platform notifications. Think also: posting an Instagram photo and being able to share it to Facebook at the time of posting.

BlackBerry seeks injunctive relief, lost profits, and a go-forward licensing fee to use its patented technology. However, there is also considerable speculation that BlackBerry realizes its relevance in the marketplace has declined and this is an attempt to bring the company back into the spotlight. One potential outcome of the lawsuit is a partnership with Facebook, a not uncommon result when a company with mass distribution capability wants to use technology patented by someone else—even a competitor. BlackBerry also currently has a similar case pending against Nokia in Delaware. We will keep tabs on these two cases, and see if the BBM hug emoticon will be making a comeback!