from the really-guys? dept
Blackberry, the Canadian company that briefly made semi-popular devices for people at companies thanks to their physical keyboards, has always been more of a patent troll. While the company was on the losing end of one of the most famous pure patent troll cases in the past few decades, we have noted in the past that the very reason the trolling operation NTP sued Blackberry (then RIM) was RIM/Blackberry’s own ridiculously aggressive patent shakedowns of other companies, which caught the attention of NTP’s principles in the first place. Since the demand for actual devices from Blackberry has shrunk to “wait, those guys still exist?” levels, it’s focused again on patent shakedowns.
Back in March, the company sued Facebook claiming that Facebook was infringing with some fairly basic concepts related to mobile messaging. While there were a number of different patents and claims in the original 117-page complaint, many of them are clearly bonkers. There is no reason why this stuff should be patented at all. Take, for example, US Patent 8,209,634 for “Previewing a new event on a small screen device.” Believe it or not, Blackberry has patented adding a little dot showing you how many unread messages you have. Really.
The Blackberry complaint goes on at length about just how amazing and unknown this kind of thing was before this patent (which is utter nonsense):
Given the state of the art at the time of the invention of the ?634 Patent, the inventive concepts of the ?634 Patent were not conventional, well-understood, or routine. The ?634 Patent discloses, among other things, an unconventional and technological solution to an issue arising specifically in the context of wireless communication devices and electronic messaging received within those devices. The solution implemented by the ?634 Patent provides a specific and substantial improvement over prior messaging notification systems, resulting in an improved user interface for electronic devices and communications applications on those devices, including by introducing novel elements directed to improving the function and working of communications devices such as, inter alia, the claimed ?visually modifying at least one displayed icon relating to electronic messaging to include a numeric character representing a count of the plurality of different messaging correspondents for which one or more of the electronic messages have been received and remain unread? (claims 1, 7, and 13), ?displaying on the graphical user interface an identifier of the correspondent from whom at least one of the plurality of messages was received? (claim 5), and ?displaying on the graphical user interface at least one preview of content associated with at least one of the received electronic messages? (claim 6), ?[executable / machine-readable] instructions which, when executed, cause the wireless communication device to visually modify the graphical user interface to include an identifier of the correspondent from whom at least one of the plurality of messages was received? (claims 11 and 17), ?[executable / machine-readable] instructions which, when executed, cause the wireless communication device to visually modify the graphical user interface to include at least one preview of content associated with at least one of the received electronic messages? (claim 12 and 18).
That’s a load of claptrap. The reason icons didn’t historically show a number for unread messages had nothing to do with an “unconventional and technological solution,” but because the resolution of small screens wasn’t good enough to make this viable. Once the technology caught up the very obvious way to display such information became fairly standard fairly quickly. But, alas, Blackberry claims that Facebook is clearly infringing because of this:
What a load of nonsense. There’s a lot more like this in the complaint, with patents that clearly never should have been granted, and are likely invalid patents post-Alice.
Anyway, that was all back in March. The reason I’m bringing it up again now is because Facebook has now sued Blackberry for patent infringement in a strikingly similar lawsuit. Indeed, I’d almost think that Facebook’s lawyers at Cooley were trolling Blackberry’s lawyers by making their complaint 118-pages to Blackberry’s 117-page complaint about Facebook. You may recall, back in 2012, that Facebook (with an assist from Microsoft) bought a bunch of patents from a struggling AOL, in an effort to keep them out of the hands of trolls. The new suit involves claims that are suspiciously just as stupid and ridiculous as the ones in Blackberry’s lawsuit against Facebook.
Again, if there weren’t potentially billions of dollars at stake, I’d really think that Facebook was trolling Blackberry with these claims. Take, for example, the claims around US Patent 8,429,231 for “voice instant messaging.” The heart of the patent is having a button on a text instant messaging app that allows you to shift the conversation to voice. An image example from the patent:
And… the corresponding image of how Blackberry is supposedly infringing on this patent:
I honestly can’t decide which of the two examples above is a stupider patent — the unread messages bubble or the click-to-call button.
It is entirely possible that, as was done in the good old days of patent nuclear wars, the intention here is just to get the two sides to agree to some sort of cross licensing deal and to walk away from the courthouse — but what a massive waste of time, money and resources this is, all over some fairly basic UI features that never should have been patented in the first place.