Technology

Is BlackBerry A Thief? Facebook Suggests So In Patent Lawsuit

Facebook sued BlackBerry
Activedia / Pixabay

A few months ago, BlackBerry sued Facebook for alleged patent infringement. Now the social networking giant is doing the same with the Canadian firm. According to Bloomberg, Facebook sued BlackBerry for allegedly breaching several of its patents.

Facebook sued BlackBerry for allegedly using its patents

Facebook sued BlackBerry in San Francisco federal court, accusing the Canadian firm of breaching its patents for voice messaging. The patented technologies are related to how mobile devices deliver graphics and the tracking of GPS data.

Facebook sued BlackBerry over a total of six patents and is demanding unspecified damages from the Canadian firm. According to the social networking giant, the breach has “caused and will continue to cause damage” to its Messenger and WhatsApp apps. A 118-page complaint explaining why Facebook sued BlackBerry was filed Tuesday.

In March, when BlackBerry filed its lawsuit against Facebook, it said the company was “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 it filed the lawsuit after years of dialogue with the social networking giant.

Facebook was sued for allegedly breaching patents related to the display of message timestamps and the technology related to the tagging of friends and family in photos. The Canadian firm accused Facebook of unauthorized use of its technologies in its messenger services, including WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger.

At the time, Facebook Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal said BlackBerry’s lawsuit “sadly reflects the current state of its messaging business” and that since the abandonment of “its efforts to innovate, BlackBerry is now looking to tax the innovation of others.”

It must be noted that BlackBerry’s BBM dominated the messaging scene in the mid- to late-2000s. Facebook Messenger was spun out of the core app in 2013.

BlackBerry’s other patent lawsuits

It comes as a surprise that BlackBerry is being sued for alleged patent violations. The Canadian firm holds more than 40,000 global patents. Moreover, collecting royalties for the use of its patents by others is one of its money-making strategies. Last year, Qualcomm paid BlackBerry $940 million in royalty refunds.

In February 2017, the Canadian firm sued Nokia, accusing it of using its patents related to 3G and 4G wireless technology-related patents. BlackBerry is also involved in a patent battle with Snapchat over seven patents.

However, BlackBerry suffered a setback last month when the Patent Trial and Appeal Board declared one of its patents to be invalid. The patent in question was for the display of message timestamps in certain circumstances, and the board ruled that it was already covered. This patent battle was part of BlackBerry’s infringement lawsuit against Blu, which uses Google’s Android OS for its phones.

Prior to this, Google successfully challenged two more BlackBerry patents. The patents in question relate to certain portions of the user interface which are associated with the notification bar and similar navigation elements. Google argued that the language used by BlackBerry causes one to believe it is a new patent, but that the same technology has been covered in previous inventions.

Is BlackBerry running out of options?

BlackBerry, once the dominant player in the smartphone market, now holds less than 1% of the market. As it struggled to sell its handsets and as part of its restructuring efforts, the company licensed its brand to TCL a couple of years ago. Under the terms of the deal, the Chinese company acquired all rights to design, make, sell and support all future BlackBerry handsets.

Over the past few years, BlackBerry has been making efforts to turn around its operations. The company is exiting its less profitable businesses like smartphones and lowering costs by laying off employees. Despite such efforts, BlackBerry’s revenue has been dropping steadily, falling from about $11 billion in fiscal 2014 to $932 million in fiscal 2018.

BlackBerry’s stock is also underperforming. The stock is down about 11% year to date and has remained almost flat since 2013. In comparison, NASDAQ has gained about 16% year to date and 20% over the last five years. The Canadian firm is now running out of options to eliminate further costs, and thus, it is in dire need of a strategy to reverse its revenue decline.

BlackBerry’s near-term revenue outlook is also not very encouraging. Its revenue is expected to drop 5% this year as the revenue growth from Software and Services is unlikely to offset the drop in its Service Access Fee business, which declined f 58% year over year in the most recent quarter.