Ryan Seacrest
January 4, 2014

BlackBerry Files Patent Suit Against Seacrest-Backed Company

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Typo Products, the start-up backed by American Idol host and entertainment personality Ryan Seacrest, is being accused of patent infringement by Canadian telecommunications firm BlackBerry.

In a statement released Friday, the troubled firm formerly known as Research In Motion announced that they had filed a lawsuit against Typo over the company’s soon-to-be-released iPhone keyboard case. BlackBerry said that the keyboard, which is designed to slip onto Apple devices, violates their intellectual property rights.

“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,” said BlackBerry's General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer Steve Zipperstein. “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,” he added. The company’s lawsuit has been filed in the Northern District of California.

Last month, Seacrest invested $1 million in Typo, the company he co-founded with Show Media CEO Laurence Hallier. The iPhone case, which featured a full QWERTY keyboard, will be featured next week during the International CES technology expo and is scheduled to be available for pre-order before the end of the month.

“Interestingly, Zipperstein said the company was ‘flattered’ by the desire to enable other smartphones with a BlackBerry-style keyboard, but added that it would ‘not tolerate’ any such activity without fair compensation,” explained ZDNet writer Zack Whittaker.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Blackberry contends that the $99, iPhone 5-compatable keyboard “illegally copies technology and designs that BlackBerry pioneered years ago for its line of smartphones.” The company is seeking both “unspecified damages” and a court order preventing the sale of the accessory “without a licensing agreement.”

The case is BlackBerry Ltd. v. Typo Products LLC, 14-00023, and was filed in the US District Court, Northern District of California, which is located in San Francisco, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Both Bloomberg and the AP attempted to contact Typo for comment, but neither had received a response as of Friday evening.

The Typo keyboard communicates wirelessly with the Apple-developed smartphone via Bluetooth 3.0, and charges externally using a micro-USB cable. The device’s dimensions are 6.2mm (W) x 14.1mm (T) x 1mm (D) and it weighs just 1.4 ounces. Currently, the keyboard will only be available for iPhone 5 and 5s models, but Typo plans to expand the product line to include other handheld devices, including tablets.