BlackBerry has filed a suit in the Northern District of California against Typo Keyboards, a company co-founded by TV personality Ryan Seacrest to create a better typing experience on the Apple iPhone. The Typo Keyboard is a $99 case that clicks onto an iPhone 5 or 5S, essentially giving it a BlackBerry keyboard.
“For several years, many of our friends and colleagues carried two phones: one for typing and correspondence and an iPhone for virtually everything else,” Typo says on its Website, explaining the origin of the product.
One assumes that the phone Seacrest was using for correspondence wasn’t an Android.
“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,” Steve Zipperstein, BlackBerry’s general counsel and chief legal officer, said in a Jan. 3 statement.
“From the beginning, BlackBerry has always focused on offering an exceptional typing experience that combines a great design with ergonomic excellence,” Zipperstein continued. “We are flattered by the desire to graft our keyboard on to other smartphones, but we will not tolerate such activity without fair compensation for using our intellectual property and our technological innovations.”
Seacrest and his friend and co-founder Laurence Hallier—CEO of Typo Keyboards, as well as of Show Media and Hallier Investments—have invested at least $1 million in Typo and expect to invest more than $5 million in the company, All Things D reported Dec. 5, adding that the Typo Keyboard will make its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show kicking off in Las Vegas Jan. 7.
The article included the same story told on the Typo site: Seacrest and Hallier were out to dinner, each with their two phones.
“Two people, four phones! We looked at each other and thought there was an easy solution to the problem, a keyboard for the iPhone,” Typo explains. The pair tried everything available, was happy with nothing, and “decided to take matters into our own hands.”
Much like BlackBerry, Typo positions its keyboard as an “indispensible business tool that busy people can’t live without.”
The Typo Keyboard looks nearly identical to the QWERTY keyboard on the BlackBerry Q10, down to the oddly indented shape of the keys that help to make for quicker, more sure-fingered typing. Both are four-row keyboards, though the bottom row of the Typo has extra keys on the far ends, offering iPhone functionality that the Typo case covers up (like access to the home button).
A cash windfall would be a nice thing for BlackBerry, which is undergoing major reconstruction. On Nov. 4, the company announced that CEO Thorsten Heins was leaving and tech veteran John Chen, known throughout the industry for turning around Sybase, was taking over.
Now working under Chen, Zipperstein is the only remaining member of the five-person leadership team Heins assembled during his tenure.
BlackBerry announced Nov. 25 that Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear, Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben and Chief Financial Officer Brian Bidulka were all leaving the company.
BlackBerry announced Jan. 2 that it was also parting ways with singer Alicia Keys, whom it hired last January to be its global creative director. In a statement, BlackBerry said the pair had completed their “yearlong collaboration,” adding that it “enjoyed the opportunity to work with such an incredibly talented and passionate individual.”
Unlike Seacrest, Keys doesn’t suffer from an inability to type on an iPhone. Shortly after announcing that she had “broken up” with her iPhone and was now going steady with a BlackBerry 10, it was found that Keys had sent a Tweet from an iPhone.