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BlackBerry sues Facebook over messaging tech, alleging patent infringement

BlackBerry sues Facebook over messaging tech, alleging patent infringement
Blackberry says Facebook apps including Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp use some messaging capabilities that were originally designed by BlackBerry. (Jenny Kane / Associated Press)

BlackBerry Ltd. is suing Facebook Inc., accusing the social media giant of patent infringement. The former smartphone maker is alleging that Facebook's massively popular messaging applications use technology that BlackBerry invented.

Apps including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp use some messaging capabilities that were originally designed by BlackBerry, a BlackBerry spokeswoman 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."

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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.

"BlackBerry's suit sadly reflects the current state of its messaging business," said Paul Grewal, Facebook's deputy general counsel. "Having abandoned its efforts to innovate, BlackBerry is now looking to tax the innovation of others. We intend to fight."

In the past, Facebook executives have said 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 Snap Inc.'s Snapchat for creating the popular "stories" function with which people can post disappearing videos about their days, which is now more popular on Facebook's properties than it is on Snapchat.

BlackBerry was an early pioneer in messaging. Its proprietary service BBM helped draw millions to its phones in the mid-2000s when the company was a smartphone leader. But the Canadian company waited years before opening BBM up to phones running Apple Inc. or Alphabet Inc. operating systems, and as those companies took over the smartphone market, BBM's popularity faded along with BlackBerry's devices.

Under Chief Executive John Chen, BlackBerry has stopped making its own phones and pivoted to security-focused software. License payments from its old wireless patents still bring in revenue, though, and the company has won other court battles in the past, most notably an $814.9-million windfall from Qualcomm Inc.

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