BlackBerry to sue Facebook over patent infringement

BlackBerry is suing Facebook for patent infringement, claiming the social media giant uses technology invented by the former smartphone maker in Facebook’s massively popular messaging applications.

Apps like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp use some messaging capabilities that were originally designed by BlackBerry, a spokeswoman for the company said in an email. “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 is asking that Facebook be ordered to stop providing its primary app as well as Facebook Messenger, Workplace Chat, WhatsApp Messenger and Instagram applications and websites.

Facebook and its companies “created mobile messaging applications that co-opt BlackBerry’s innovations, using a number of the innovative security, user interface, and functionality enhancing features that made BlackBerry’s products such a critical and commercial success in the first place,” BlackBerry said in a complaint.

In the past, Facebook executives have explained that in the technology industry, copying what works is sometimes necessary. Facebook wasn’t the first social network, just like Google’s Gmail wasn’t the first email service. Facebook has publicly credited Snapchat for creating the popular “stories” function that allows people to post disappearing videos about their days, which is now more popular on Facebook’s properties than it is on Snapchat.

Matt Jones, partner at Intellectual Property law firm EIP, commented: “It is surprising to see such an array of negative opinions towards the action being taken by BlackBerry against Facebook. It is very important to bear in mind that it is irrelevant if a service or product has become ‘common’, the key aspect to consider is whether it was new and inventive at the priority date of the patent, which could be more than a decade ago. In this case a technology expert should be sought to question whether it was obvious back when the services were patented.

“If Facebook has infringed BlackBerry’s patents, the latter has every right to monetise its Intellectual Property.”