A U.S. District judge in San Francisco has ruled in favor of BlackBerry in a suit against Typo Products. Typo, co-founded by media personality Ryan Seacrest, offers a Bluetooth-enabled case that snaps around an iPhone, essentially giving it a BlackBerry keyboard.
Judge William Orrick ruled that Typo’s case likely infringes on BlackBerry patents and told the company to stop selling the case.
“BlackBerry has convincingly shown that BlackBerry’s keyboard designs are a key driver of demand and goodwill for BlackBerry phones,” Orrick wrote in a March 29 court order, according to a Bloomberg report the same day.
Typo told Bloomberg in a statement that it’s disappointed by the judge’s decision, will appeal the order, and will “continue to make and sell innovative products that busy people can’t live without.”
BlackBerry has argued that the Typo product is a “blatant infringement against BlackBerry’s iconic keyboard.”
Announcing BlackBerry’s lawsuit in a Jan. 3 blog post, General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer Steve Zipperstein said that BlackBerry has “always focused on offering an exceptional typing experience that combines a great design with ergonomic excellence.”
He added, “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.”
On the Typo site, Seacrest tells the story of the impetus for the Typo keyboard. And while Seacrest never uses the word “BlackBerry,” the implication is there. He was out to dinner with a friend, and both had two phones each out on the table—an iPhone, for basically everything but emailing, and, the implication is, a BlackBerry, because its physical keyboard makes it easy to quickly type emails.
“Two people, four phones! We looked at each other and thought there was an easy solution to the problem, a keyboard for the iPhone,” wrote Seacrest.
And indeed, Typo offers not simply a keyboard, but what appears to be BlackBerry’s well-loved keyboard, complete with the oddly shaped buttons that make for more sure-fingered typing.
BlackBerry’s next flagship smartphone is called the Classic, since it will bring back the classic BlackBerry keyboard and other features that had been evolved away in more recent models but that BlackBerry’s core users really respond to. (During BlackBerry’s fiscal 2014 fourth quarter, it sold 3.4 million phones, 2.3 million of which were old OS 7 handsets.)
“This device is obviously for true BlackBerry loyalists and a return to our roots,” BlackBerry CEO John Chen said during the company’s March 28 earnings call of the Classic. “Customers love our keyboard, the track pads … the email services, the cut and paste, and everybody loves the battery life. To these users, their BlackBerrys are indispensible productivity tools.”
If Seacrest has been prepped by his legal team to avoid the word “BlackBerry,” he forgot to do the same for his buddy Jimmy Fallon before he made a recent appearance on “The Tonight Show.”
“A buddy of mine—we were sitting around one night, with two devices [each] and we were trying to figure out how to consolidate and also type faster and more efficiently,” Seacrest told Fallon, repeating the Typo keyboard’s origin story. “I like the physical keyboard, too.”
Fallon, understanding and in full agreement, nodded, “Yeah, my wife is all BlackBerry all the way.”
“I just like the feel of the keys,” answered Seacrest. “So we came up with this case. You just slide it on, and it’s Bluetooth-connected. And it’s so easy to type. … It’s made my life so much easier.”