BlackBerry Ltd. is taking Facebook Inc. and its WhatsApp and Instagram subsidiaries to court in California, alleging they've infringed on several U.S. patents owned by the Canadian company.
BlackBerry – which has largely exited the smartphone industry that it helped create – said its patents are infringed by an "ever expanding" list of products or services, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp Messenger and Instagram.
"By this action, BlackBerry seeks to put an end to (the) defendants' unauthorized use of BlackBerry's patented technologies and to obtain compensation for the harm BlackBerry has suffered," the suit said.
One claim is for a BlackBerry patent that enables use of a device's contact list while a game is being played, in order to exchange messages and game data.
Another of BlackBerry's patents is for a user interface for selecting a photo tag.
In total, BlackBerry claims Facebook has infringed on seven of its patents, covering various functions including security.
Facebook said in a statement that it intends to fight BlackBerry.
"Blackberry's suit sadly reflects the current state of its messaging business. Having abandoned its efforts to innovate, Blackberry is now looking to tax the innovation of others," said Paul Grewal, Facebook's deputy general counsel.
The claims, which have not been proven in court, did not specify the financial compensation the Waterloo, Ont.-based company is seeking.
In contrast to the combative nature of its court filing, BlackBerry's press statement said it has "a lot of respect for Facebook and the value they've placed on messaging capabilities, some of which were invented by BlackBerry," the statement said.
"However, we have a strong claim that Facebook has infringed on our intellectual property, and after several years of dialogue, we also have an obligation to our shareholders to pursue appropriate legal remedies."
Such cases are common among technology companies and can result in financial penalties or royalty payments if the claim can be proved in court or the parties reach a settlement agreement.
BlackBerry has won court battles with other technologies in the past, but its losses are more prominent.
In 2006, while still called Research In Motion, the company agreed to settle a case brought against it by patent company NTP Inc. The BlackBerry maker agreed to pay more than US$600 million to the Virginia-based company, rather than continue a years-long legal battle that included a jury judgment in NTP's favour and several rounds of appeal.