A day after recording artist Alicia Keys saw her contract as BlackBerry ‘creative director’ expire, the Waterloo-based handset maker has filed a lawsuit against an accessory company cofounded by American Idol host Ryan Seacrest over a patent dispute, WSJ reports.
“This 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,” BlackBerry said in a statement.
While the keyboard accessory does resemble that of BlackBerry’s own handsets, it’s certainly an interesting stand to take against a startup company as even BlackBerry’s own smartphones are trending toward touch screen user interfaces and built-in keyboards have all but lost in popularity. Typo Products, LLC, the company in which Seacrest reportedly invested $1 million and is listed as a founder, lists the keyboard accessory as $99 on its website and currently says shipping will begin this month…
For its part, BlackBerry insists the keyboard is too similar to the keyboard equipped on many of its smartphones, according to Steve Zipperstein, BlackBerry’s General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer:
From the beginning, BlackBerry has always focused on offering an exceptional typing experience that combines a great design with ergonomic excellence. We are flattered by the desire to graft our keyboard onto other smartphones, but we will not tolerate such activity without fair compensation for using our intellectual property and our technological innovations.
Whether or not it’s patent infringement, few would predict the declining smartphone maker would start out 2014 defending its physical keyboard technology against a pop culture icon such as Ryan Seacrest.
Dismiss the App Store and integrated-Apple services and BlackBerry may have a concern over lost sales, but a $99 keyboard accessory is probably the least of BlackBerry’s concerns.
“We are aware of the lawsuit that Blackberry filed today against Typo Products. Although we respect Blackberry and its intellectual property, we believe that Blackberry’s claims against Typo lack merit and we intend to defend the case vigorously. We are excited about our innovative keyboard design, which is the culmination of years of development and research. The Typo keyboard has garnered an overwhelmingly positive response from the public. We are also looking forward to our product launch at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week and remain on track to begin shipping pre-orders at the end of January.”