BlackBerry Ltd., the smartphone maker that withdrew plans to sell itself and go private last year, sued Ryan Seacrest’s Typo Products LLC alleging it copied designs for a keyboard case.
The company said Typo’s product, an external case for Apple’s iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s with an integrated physical keyboard, infringes patents and designs used in the Q10, a keyboard-equipped smartphone BlackBerry released last year.
“Typo chose to copy BlackBerry’s iconic keyboard design as embodied in, among others, BlackBerry’s Q10 smartphone, seeking to trade on BlackBerry’s commercial recognition and goodwill,” the Waterloo, Ontario-based company said in a complaint filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco.
Seacrest, the radio and TV producer and host of “American Idol,” is founder of closely-held Los Angeles-based Typo, according to the company’s website. The disputed product is scheduled to begin shipping this month, according to the complaint.
“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,” Erika Gutierrez, a spokeswoman for Typo, said in an e-mailed statement. “We are excited about our innovative keyboard design, which is the culmination of years of development and research.”
Apple isn’t a defendant in the case.
BlackBerry has over the years lost business to Apple and Google Inc.’s Android devices. Its share of the global smartphone market tumbled to just 1.7 percent in the third quarter from 4.1 percent a year earlier, according to IDC.
Last month BlackBerry co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer Mike Lazaridis walked away from a possible takeover plan and reduced his stake in the smartphone maker after it ended an attempt to sell itself.
Following the collapse of a $4.7 billion buyout by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. in November, BlackBerry ended its strategic review, opting instead to raise $1 billion in convertible debt and seek a new CEO. Former Sybase Inc. chief John Chen was named executive chairman and interim CEO.
BlackBerry is seeking a court order blocking Typo from infringing its intellectual property, Typo’s profits from infringing products and triple damages. It also asked for an order forcing Typo to take infringing products off the market.
The case is BlackBerry Ltd. v. Typo Products LLC, 14-00023, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
–With assistance from Ian King in San Francisco, Hugo Miller in Toronto and Nick Turner in New York. Editors: Andrew Dunn, Charles Carter