Not Facebook Friends. Examining the Intellectual Property Dispute between BlackBerry and Facebook.

Recently, BlackBerry sued Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram for infringing its patents. While the exact details are currently unknown to the general public, the alleged infringement pertains to BlackBerry Messenger.

What is particularly interesting is Facebook’s response to Blackberry. Facebook alleges that Blackberry has failed in “innovation” and is instead trying to “tax the innovation of others”. This statement most likely refers to Blackberry’s steadily decreasing prominence in the cellular device market and the growth of other companies.

Most would feel Facebook’s response is just the standard response of an opponent but its response actually touches upon larger issues. That is the controversy of software patents. Some argue that software patents can encourage economic growth and innovation. However, others suggest such patents harm start-ups, encourage patent trolling and protect “trivial” innovations. For example, IBM was subjected to criticism for patenting an “Out-of-Office” email feature last year and subsequently decided to no longer enforce this patent. Facebook’s statement seems to suggest Blackberry is trolling competitors and stifling competition.

With BlackBerry believing they have a “strong claim” against Facebook, it will be interesting to see the rendered decision and what impact it might have on the broader field of software patents.

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