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Blackberry Sues Facebook over Patent Infringement

On March 6, 2018, BlackBerry filed suit against Facebook in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. In its 117 page complaint, BlackBerry alleges that Facebook (including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram) infringed seven BlackBerry-owned patents.

Blackberry Sues Facebook over Patent Infringement 

Yes! You heard it right; BlackBerry has sued Facebook, and Facebook owned WhatsApp and Instagram in patent infringement spat. BlackBerry says that Facebook used its innovations for Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. BlackBerry has filed a lawsuit against Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, claiming that the companies infringed on patents relating to BlackBerry Messenger. 



What is Patent Infringement? 

Patent infringement is the commission of a prohibited act with respect to a patented invention without permission from the patent holder. Permission may typically be granted in the form of a license. The definition of patent infringement may vary by jurisdiction, but it typically includes using or selling the patented invention. In many countries, a use is required to be commercial to constitute patent infringement. 



The terms of the claims inform the public of what is not allowed without the permission of the patent holder. Patents are territorial, and infringement is only possible in a country where a patent is in force. 

 For example, if a patent is granted in the United States, then anyone in the United States is prohibited from making, using, selling or importing the patented item, while people in other countries may be free to exploit the patented invention in their country. The scope of protection may vary from country to country, because the patent is examined -or in some countries not substantively examined- by the patent office in each country or region and may be subject to different patentability requirements. 

What are the allegations made by Blackberry? 

On March 6, 2018, BlackBerry filed suit against Facebook in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. In its 117 page complaint, BlackBerry alleges that Facebook (including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram) infringed seven BlackBerry-owned patents. 

The suit alleges that Facebook apps co-opt BlackBerry's messaging innovations, including innovations related to security improvements, user interfaces (message notifications, displays of time stamps, and tagging in photos), combining mobile gaming and messaging, and battery-efficient status updates. 




BlackBerry in its complaint said that, “Defendants 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”. 

Facebook will have 21 days to respond to this complaint, although that deadline may be extended by agreement of the parties. 

What response will Facebook have? 

Facebook will argue non infringement - that their software does not infringe the claims because it does not satisfy at least one element/step of each asserted claim. 

Facebook will also argue invalidity that the patents at suit should not have been issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). This argument will be based on finding a combination of published documents and other materials ("prior art") which pre-date the asserted patents. Facebook will argue that the prior art shows the entire subject matter of the asserted claims (that the claims are "anticipated"), or that the prior art renders the subject matter "obvious" to one of skill in the relevant art. 


Facebook is likely to have strong defenses that the patents are invalid. Many of the asserted claims are extremely broad, and Facebook is likely to be able to find similar prior art for many of these claims. 

The case will ultimately be much more important for BlackBerry than it is for Facebook, simply as a matter of scale, Facebook revenues for the past twelve months are more than 40 times more than those of BlackBerry, and also Facebook has an operating profit of over 80times than those of BlackBerry. 

As a result, the impact of this case is likely to have a much larger effect on BlackBerry than it will on Facebook. 

Will the case be in Blackberry’s Favor? 

If BlackBerry’s allegations were to prevail, damages could be very large. The patents cove elements of a wide variety of Facebook platforms, including Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. 



Further, if BlackBerry's patents withstand court scrutiny, this could open up the door for BlackBerry to aggressively pursue licensing deals with other companies as well - the broad features described in these patents are used by many companies in addition to Facebook. 

Thoughts on the case 

BlackBerry has very broad claims, and Facebook likely infringes many of them. Facebook will argue that the patents are invalid, since they would have been obvious or anticipated at the time they were filed. 

While, the social network hit back, saying: "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." 

The outcome will ultimately be much more important to BlackBerry than to Facebook, as a matter of scale.   
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Sandeep Semwal
Content Writer
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