San Diego – Blackberry Ltd. has filed a federal lawsuit in San Francisco against Typo Products LLC, alleging patent infringement of its smartphone designs. Blackberry’s lead counsel announced the filing and said that Typo’s product “is a blatant infringement against BlackBerry’s iconic keyboard, and we will vigorously protect our intellectual property against any company that attempts to copy our unique design.” He did not expand on whether or not his company had attempted to come to an agreement with the Los Angeles-based startup before filing its complaint.
The Typo device, which is available for sale for $99, features a keyboard that snaps onto the iPhone 5 or 5s, much like a protective case. The full-size “QWERTY” keyboard is then attached to the bottom of the iPhone, covering the traditional touch sensor that Apple is known for. Ryan Seacrest, who is a part owner of Typo, has said that he and his team came up with the idea for the Typo keyboard because they wanted a faster and more efficient way to type on their iPhones. Indeed, Typo alleges that its studies have shown that testers reported up to 50% faster typing speeds when using the Typo keyboard as opposed to the standard on-screen iPhone keyboard.
Physically, when the Typo is fitted onto the iPhone, it looks strikingly similar to the Blackberry. The keyboard is almost identical to that of Blackberry, with some subtle differences. For example, the Typo has a Bluetooth option on the “0” key, which Blackberry does not have. The Typo also uniquely has light bulb and mail icons on the bottom row of keys. Despite these minor variations, Blackberry contends that Typo “blatantly copied” the physical keyboard that it is known for, effectively allowing consumers to turn any iPhone into a Blackberry, without having to pay for a Blackberry.
This lawsuit could be Blackberry’s make or break moment, as the company has seen a steady drop in sales over the past few years, with many tech experts predicting its impending end coming soon. Despite its efforts to keep up with Apple and Samsung with its development of a few touch-screen only phones, Blackberry has been unable to resurface as a major smartphone contender. As a result, if Typo ends up the resulting victor of this lawsuit, it could sound the death knell for the troubled mobile device maker.
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