BlackBerry has filed a lawsuit against Facebook accusing the social media company of using messaging technology that was developed by the ex-smartphone maker years ago. The move by BlackBerry has raised eyebrows since the messaging apps of mobile devices have become ubiquitous with little differentiation.
According to BlackBerry the technology invented by the ex-smartphone maker laid the foundation of today’s messaging apps with the BBM app, a space which is currently dominated by Japan’s Line Corp, China’s Tencent Holdings and Facebook. In its lawsuit BlackBerry claims that it invented some core aspects of messaging and this includes notification icons as well as the timing and placement of time stamps in threads.
For BlackBerry the stakes are real since in the past years its patents business has been expanding. Since the summer of 2016 licensing revenues have increased three-fold to reach a figure of $50 million per quarter. Late last year patents comprised about 22% of BlackBerry’s total revenues compared to 6.3% in the summer of 2016.
John Chen, the chief executive officer of the former smartphone maker, has said that the vast number of patents that BlackBerry holds are an untapped resource which could assist in the company’s turnaround efforts. As his justification for quitting the smartphone business, the CEO of BlackBerry signed agreements with other device manufacturers allowing them to use the Canadian brand.
According to a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst, Matt Larson, though it may take quite a while Blackberry might win some kind of settlement with regards to the messaging app lawsuit against Facebook.
“It’s a very difficult business. Litigation trends in the U.S. and abroad have made it difficult for patent owners to enforce their rights in court, so bringing licensing customers to the table can be a slow and expensive process,” said Larson.
In the past the patent suits have paid off for BlackBerry. Three years ago it was able to secure ongoing payments from networking gear maker Cisco Systems. Last year in October it also won a case against Blu Products, a phone maker. And earlier in the year BlackBerry also reached a settlement with Avaya Holdings Corp, a communications technology firm though the deal terms were not revealed.
In all the above cases the settlements were reached before they could go to trial and legal experts predict that this will happen in the suit against Facebook. This is because BlackBerry’s patent portfolio is one of the strongest in the U.S.