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BlackBerry takes all of Facebook’s instant messaging apps to court

Published Mar 7th, 2018 6:45AM EST
BlackBerry vs. Facebook

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Like seeing that tiny number that adorns an instant messaging app on your iPhone or Android to tell you that you’ve got incoming messages? How about muting annoying groups that you can’t just leave without everyone else noticing? Love the fact that most mobile chat apps nowadays apps are encrypted? Or maybe you like playing games in chat apps with your friends while you’re chatting?

Well, BlackBerry says it invented technologies that make these features possible, and then some. The company, or what remains from the giant smartphone maker that once was, is now suing Facebook, alleging that the social network’s chat apps — think Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram — infringe several patents.

BlackBerry is, of course, one of the companies responsible for the smartphone, but also one of the huge losers of the mobile business as a whole. Without those BlackBerry phones with QWERTY keyboards, there would be no problem for Apple to fix. But, just as the iPhone made touchscreen phones popular, BlackBerry failed to adapt, and ultimately died.

What survived of that company is what’s suing Facebook — and I’m not saying BlackBerry’s innovations should be ignored, or its lawsuits ignored. It just looks like BlackBerry has reached a point in its afterlife where it really needs to squeeze out money from others via patent infringement lawsuits.

It’s undeniable that BlackBerry invented many of the smartphone features that are in use today, including app messaging tricks. After all, its own messaging platform was quite popular among BlackBerry users. But why is it that BlackBerry didn’t sue Facebook sooner? What about everyone else in the business that developed chat apps with similar features? Apple and Google have chat apps of their own.

BlackBerry said in a statement to Ars Technica that it had “several years of dialogue” with Facebook to no avail.

As a cybersecurity and embedded software leader, BlackBerry’s view is that Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp could make great partners in our drive toward a securely connected future, and we continue to hold this door open to them. However, 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.

Then there’s Facebook, a service that a particular set of twins claims wasn’t invented by Mark Zuckerberg, but instead was inspired by their own plans to create a social network. In recent years, we’ve seen Facebook do everything in its power to copy the functionalities available on competing platforms as fast as possible. That’s on top of buying competing products whenever possible. Now, many of Facebooks chat apps do most of the things available on Snapchat. Such is life in the mobile business.

In response to BlackBerry’s claims, Facebook says it hasn’t done anything wrong. “Blackberry’s suit sadly reflects the current state of its messaging business,” Facebook deputy general counsel Paul Grewal told Ars in a statement. “Having abandoned its efforts to innovate, Blackberry is now looking to tax the innovation of others. We intend to fight.”

What does it all mean for fans of Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp? Absolutely nothing. Facebook and BlackBerry are likely to settle the dispute in the future.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.