Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

RIM's Legal Strategy Over Samsung's BlackJack Is A Bust

from the would-you-like-to-buy-some-insurance? dept

Research in Motion (RIM) is no stranger to silly intellectual property lawsuits. A few years back they started suing lots of other companies over patents they held on wireless email devices. That, of course, famously resulted in small patent holder NTP suing RIM for patent infringement, and eventually scoring $612 million off of the company. What's amusing, of course, is that the lawyers behind NTP claim they only found out about RIM in the first place because of its own patent lawsuits. Apparently RIM's lawyers haven't learned a thing from all of this, and they're now suing Samsung over the name of Samsung's new smartphone: the BlackJack. This is a trademark (not patent) dispute, which makes a little more sense, since you need to protect your trademarks or risk losing them -- but it seems like quite a stretch to suggest that people are going to confuse a device called the BlackBerry with a device called the BlackJack. If Samsung had named their device with "Berry" it might be a more believable case -- since the "-Berry" suffix is more closely associated with RIM's device. However, the odd part about this is that it effectively helps Samsung a lot more than it hurts them. Samsung should be thrilled about this lawsuit, which is generating a ton of free publicity for their new device, which otherwise probably wouldn't have gotten all that much separate attention. Even better, it's being compared to what's considered the leader in the market. In RIM's attempt to defend their trademark, all they've really done is helped promote the competition.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    The infamous Joe, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 10:46am

    In other news...

    Watch your back, Frankenberry.-- you're next.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    LShaw, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 11:21am

    Blackberry vs BlackJack

    I work for Cingular in a retail store and oddly enough a lot of people this holiday season have confused the blackjack with the blackberry. Odd but true

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Brian, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 11:23am

    RIM is right...kinda

    I kinds disagree with the tone of this one; making RIM out to be some silly sueing corporate idiots. I support BlackBerry devices (along with Palms, Windows Mobile, etc...) for a living and I've had at least 15 of my users ask about the new "BlackBerry" they saw on tv..."the Jack or somethin?"

    Samsung isn't stupid, but sneaky...they are directly using the branding awareness established by RIM to sell their product! You don't think they named it "Black" for any old reason do you?

    RIM has every right to protect the empire they have built.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Stork, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 11:36am

    Re: RIM is right...kinda

    yeah, Black-Hat or even Black-Cat would have made much more sense, and would have been less confusing.

    So what if Samsung named the device after the color of it - The Black-Jack is well... BLACK, as you might already know.

    And what all the RED and also WHITE buttons on it, the device does sort of look like a toy you may find in a casino... thus an easy name such as "Black-Jack" is well fitting.

    As for Black-Berry? Aren't they already deemed as "Crack-Berries" because they are so "addictive"?

    BLACK & CRACK.... hmm, yeah, they rhyme, but that is about all they have in common, name-wise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    BlackFairy, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 11:38am

    BlackBerry, BlackJack, Black Q

    What do all these have in common?

    Berry, Jack, Q

    Nothing to worry about - Sammy has the superior product!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Peace on earth, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 11:40am

    come on

    I am a black man , can RIM sue me to??? Black Friday??? PLEASE... I have a blackjack, and also support about 25 blackberrys at my job.. I can understand people making the mistake, but the technology are not the same, so relax RIM. You are still on top.... Simplicity rules....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Paul, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 11:40am

    Blackberry vs BlackJack

    I think that RIM will not affect Samsung at all, they will not fade samsung with this kind of lawsuit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    The infamous Joe, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 12:02pm

    Wait a tic!!

    I simple google search will find several handheld blackjack games (for around $15 or so) They're right after frankenberry!

    Take that, Logic! Ha!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    KG, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 12:09pm

    I also disagree with the tone of this article. If RIM didn't speak up, Samsung would get away with using the public's inability to remember names properly to assosiate themselves with RIMs products. That and it sets precedence, a stake in the ground. The next one could be even closer and just spun to be a derivative of BlackJack.

    Whether they phase Samsung or not, is really not the point. They are legally obliged to protect their trademark, this is them doing that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Kylie Manders, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 12:26pm

    What about a BlackJill?

    They really should name more products after women. I know plenty of women who use these tiny devices. Name it BlackJill and maybe rim wouldn't care.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 12:26pm

    Blackjack vs Blackberry

    I have been at best buy and heard people getting the Wii and the PS3 confused. People are going to confuse just about anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Overcast, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 12:34pm

    Hmm, sounds like the lawyers are more interested in their RIM jobs than ethics, as usual..

    /sarcastic snicker

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    E-Dub, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 12:50pm

    BlackJack is better..

    i like my BlackJack better than any Blackberry I have owned in the past. Good job Samsung!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    sm, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 12:53pm

    blackjack *is* confusing

    I work in a desktop support group, and just today, I had someone ask me if they could get a BlackJack since "it was blackberry compatible". They assumed that since it had the word "Black-" in the name, that it was a Blackberry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Anonymous Coward (profile), Dec 12th, 2006 @ 12:56pm

    Perhaps it's time for the trademark office to allow wildcards.

    RIM could own Black* and *berry

    Microsoft needs *soft

    Google needs goo* and *oogle

    3M would get *M and go after everyone who dares use that letter.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    safusa, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 1:01pm


    Well, there are alot of blackjack electronic games on the market, just look at wal-mart they have several. I don't see how they can go after Samsung and not all the other electronic blackjack devices. If anything the people that sell the blackjack electronic games might be able to go after Samsung, but don't see how RIM has any grounds for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    The infamous Joe., Dec 12th, 2006 @ 1:11pm

    Re: blackjack *is* confusing

    There are also people who think that their Pc's CD-ROM drive is a cupholder...

    Trademarks aren't written to protect the dumbest consumer-- just the average one. Since I have had no problem telling the two apart, and I consider myself an average joe (ha!) then I'd say the trademark suit is bogus.

    Sure, my grandma might be confused by the two, but that's why god invented tech support guys like you, Mr. sm. (or ms?)

    PS- To whomever it applies: Thanks for the RIM job joke, it was a great way to end my work day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    PhysicsGuy, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 1:13pm


    some people are defending RIM on this one? so now there can't be anything at all with black in its name? also, do we forget that blackjack is a CARD GAME... i don't see RIM going after any casinos or electronic blackjack device makers... oh, and to hell with frankenberry, booberry is where it's at... :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Brian, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 1:50pm

    apples to apples

    Casinos, electronic blackjack, a card game, etc... aren't mobile devices that compete directly with a BlackBerry device, are they? Just checking, because that would be the point of RIM protecting themselves.

    If the point was name=name then maybe Kellogg's should sue Samsung for taking some of their Apple Jacks cereal market too. The point is these are extremely similar devices; and BlackJack gets instant credibility because of what the name BlackBerry has become in the world of mobile PDAs.

    It's almost like what happens in the illegal duplication capital of the world - China. I'll make my $5 Gore-Tex Jacket and call it Core-Tex.

    And what does "my device is better than your device" have to do with this anyway? Who cares, that's not the point. Everyone knows what I say is best is best, and what you like sucks. right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Solo, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 2:06pm

    You have to admit, blackberry, blackjack, similar looking devices, similar looking names. It's just as though samsung picked the name just to be sued and reap the free publicity.

    But it's probably giving them too much credit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    sdfdsf, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 3:38pm

    RIM is still the best

    RIM is still the best despite all the competition it beats them all

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    OldGeek, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 3:53pm

    RIM has worked longer

    Considering that when RIM launched its first Blackberry in 1998, Samsung was selling nothing but cheap useless junk. I beleive that RIM has a right to protect what they have worked to build over the last 8 years, and Samsung should be hung out to dry. Instead of trying to copy someone else build your own empire.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    The Captain, Dec 13th, 2006 @ 12:22pm

    Flawed rebuttle.

    The argument that RIM is going to go after BlackJack Software is a little overboard. The thought behind this is the fact that the BlackBerry and the BlackJack are the same type of product. People see the "Black" on a PDA with a thumb keyboard and assume that it is from the same product line.

    RIM is not wrong to want to protect that Trademark and stop Sammy from being sneaky and riding on their coat tails to make a few extra dollars off of someone elses mark.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    FrC, Dec 13th, 2006 @ 2:21pm

    Its all in the name

    McDavid's lost their name when sued by McDonald's in Tel Aviv. Black has a lot more letters in it than Mc ;-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    somebody, Dec 19th, 2006 @ 11:47am

    There seems to be the usual laypeople's misunderstanding of trademark law here. No, it's not a matter of "now there can't be anything at all with black in its name." Only other names that are confusingly similar and involve *similar products*. So Frankenberry (cereal), black jack (video games), and likewise black man (human, hopefully not a commercial product) and Black Friday (not a commercial product) are not relevant here.

    If RIM presents evidence of actual consumer confusion, like the kind mentioned by some of the posters, it could be devastating in court. I'm surprised Samsung pushed the envelope this far here. I haven't heard Samsung's legal arguments yet (with real lawyers, they would not make some of the arguments posted here), but I expect that this will be expensive for Samsung and may require them to pull and rename the product. Ouch!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Mike is at, Dec 22nd, 2006 @ 5:02pm

    RIM loses face and educates the market

    I think that this article hit the nail on the head. If RIM wins such a lawsuit, then Black-anything should be barred so as to protect RIM's trademark. Imagine what a RIM win would mean on a global scale - we'd increase the already massive number of absurd lawsuits by a factor of 10. Now I'm not saying that Samsung wasn't clever in choosing a name that people may think is an association, but that's RIM's own choosing. But if you even think that trademark law is problematic, as the article points out, US patent law issues are an even bigger joke in the US. It's all about who runs to the USPTO and gets an absurdly broad patent approved first. I'm wondering whether I should start a social networking site because Friendster just received a patent. RIM knows all about this game. It's about showing face, although by suing Samsung, it's providing free publicity and is cutting off its own nose to spite the face...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon, Jan 6th, 2007 @ 12:16pm

    I understand that the law firm representing RIM in this case is collecting stories from people who experienced or know about any type of confusion between BlackJack and BlackBerry. Anyone with examples or other information can email

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    rim, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 4:21pm

    j'aime boucoup blackberry

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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