Blackberry Patent War Mostly Survives Attack by Facebook, Snap

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge on Tuesday kept intact the bulk of Blackberry’s patent infringement claims against Facebook and Snap, finding it’s too early in the proceedings to say Blackberry’s patents aren’t valid.

Blackberry sued the social media titans in March, claiming it pioneered the “sense of real-time presence” that is now standard in instant messaging applications when it developed the first messaging platform with timestamps.

The Canada-based smartphone maker accused Snap and Facebook of copying patents covering the timestamp tool, message notification icons, push notifications for ads and mapping media activity by users for their services.

Facebook and Snap countered with a motion seeking to invalidate and dismiss seven patent claims cited in Blackberry’s initial complaint, arguing Blackberry’s patents cover vague concepts or ideas undeserving of protection.

The companies also sought to dismiss Blackberry’s claims they willfully and indirectly infringed the patents.

In a 27-page ruling issued Tuesday, U.S District Judge George H. Wu dismissed one of seven patent claims but said Facebook and Snap’s arguments of ineligibility aren’t strong enough to warrant tossing Blackberry’s lawsuit.

Wu dismissed Blackberry’s willful infringement claims without prejudice, leaving open the possibility of an amended complaint.

“If further discovery into defendants’ knowledge and actions reveals information that BlackBerry believes support a claim for post-suit willful infringement, it may file an appropriate motion to amend its complaint for the court’s consideration,” the ruling said.

Wu allowed the claims on message icons and targeted ad notifications to stand, finding Blackberry’s concepts are not too abstract for patent eligibility at least at this early stage in the litigation.

Attorneys for Blackberry and Snap declined to comment on the ruling. Facebook attorney Heidi Keefe of Cooley law firm did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The timestamp tool in instant messaging applications lets smartphone users know when their message was sent and received.

Blackberry says that without the timestamp, users would not have a “sense of flow” in instant messaging conversations and would lose a sense of elapsed time.

Blackberry attorney Jordan Jaffe of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan said at a hearing this month that if people use instant messaging without the timestamp, “You could open your phone three hours later and not know when messages were sent and received.”

Snap attorney Yar Chaikovsky of Paul Hastings challenged the timestamp patent, saying at the same hearing Blackberry’s patent doesn’t offer details of how the timestamp and other technologies is used on mobile devices with smaller screens using advanced graphics.

Wu agreed, tossing out Blackberry’s timestamp patent claim. He found the patent only covers the “abstract idea of displaying a timestamp based on the rule of whether a predetermined duration of time has passed.”

Blackberry failed to show how its patents “provide a technological improvement in the way timestamp information is displayed on a mobile device,” Wu wrote.

In its 71-page complaint filed against Snap in April, Blackberry accused the company of infringing its “hot spot” mapping tool which aggregates the flow of content from a specific area.

Launched in June 2017, SnapMap provides real-time mapping of activity on the Snapchat app.

Snap attorneys had argued the concepts in Blackberry’s claims have been “readily achieved throughout the course of history,” including by Winston Churchill when he studied troop formations in his World War II war rooms.

But Wu said Snap’s argument doesn’t prove Blackberry’s information map is ineligible to be patented.

“Snap’s examples do not allow for the same level of specific information tailored by location for a particular individual or the ability to adapt the displayed information based on changes in the individual’s location,” Wu wrote.

While Churchill could have had a “mobile war room trailer and a diligent staff attempting to automatically update his war map relative to his position,” Wu said, “there is no basis to show” that his staff could do so in the way provided by Blackberry’s patent.


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