BlackBerry files patent infringement suit against Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp

BlackBerry Ltd. has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram in U.S. Federal Court.

Company official says it has 'strong claim' that Facebook has infringed on its intellectual property

BlackBerry is suing Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp over claims of patent infringement. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

BlackBerry Ltd. has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, claiming they took intellectual property from its BlackBerry Messenger technology.

The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. Federal Court in Los Angeles.

In its 117-page court filing, BlackBerry claims the three companies named in the suit have developed applications that improperly use BlackBerry's mobile messaging intellectual property.

The suit claims the 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."

The claims in the suit have not been tested in court. BlackBerry has requested the case be heard by a jury. The company said it is seeking financial compensation but did not specify a dollar figure in its court filing.

Facebook owns both Instagram, a photo and video sharing app, and WhatsApp, which is a messaging and voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) service.

"We have a lot of respect for Facebook and the value they've placed on messaging capabilities, some of which were invented by BlackBerry," said Sarah McKinney, head of public relations and corporate communications for the Waterloo, Ont.-based company.

"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," McKinney said in a statement emailed to CBC News.

"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."

Facebook said it will contest BlackBerry's lawsuit.

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

Daniel Bader, managing editor at androidcentral.com, said BlackBerry has tried to rebuild its brand over last few years by co-operating with many of the tech giants.

"A lot of the success that they've had is by licensing their patents and their technology to many larger companies," Bader said. He added that it seems Facebook has rejected many of those overtures from BlackBerry over the years.

With files from Donna McElligott