Google Challenge Crushes Two More BlackBerry Patents

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By Malathi Nayak

Alphabet Inc.'s Google has knocked out two BlackBerry Ltd. patents on technology that helps users navigate mobile device screens.

BlackBerry’s user-interface patents were obvious and unpatentable as they were covered by previous inventions, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board ruled Aug. 29. The ruling comes a day after the administrative board also invalidated BlackBerry’s patent on instant message time stamps.

Google’s patent review challenges and BlackBerry’s infringement lawsuits against companies such as Facebook Inc. and Snap Inc. test the strength of BlackBerry’s patents. BlackBerry is looking to leverage its 40,000 patents to revive revenue growth. Its patent licensing revenue made up nearly 30% of the 2019 fiscal first quarter revenue of $213 million.

Google challenged four BlackBerry patents last year. Google, which now has killed three of them, is awaiting a board decision on its remaining challenge on a patent covering software security.

Google and BlackBerry didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law requests for comments.

BlackBerry had asserted the four patents two years ago in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against consumer electronics maker BLU Products Inc. Blackberry and BLU, which makes smartphones that run on Google’s Android operating system, settled their dispute in August 2017, according to court filings.

BlackBerry’s “overall strategy is to monetize their IP through licensing deals,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matt Larson said. “When companies decide not to sign up in private talks, BlackBerry resorts to litigation.”

BlackBerry in March filed a patent infringement complaint against Facebook and its Instagram and WhatsApp services in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, targeting their messaging applications. Snap Inc., which owns social media app Snapchat, was served a similar infringement lawsuit in the same court by Blackberry in April. A trial in these cases is unlikely before 2020, Larson said.

A jury trial in another patent lawsuit filed by Blackberry against Nokia Corp. is scheduled for July 2020, court filings show. Blackberry accused Nokia of infringing its patented mobile network technologies covering industry standards in 2017.

Sidley Austin LLP represented BlackBerry. Paul Hastings LLP represented Google. Paul Hastings also represents Snap in the lawsuit brought by Blackberry.

The cases are Google Inc. v. Blackberry Ltd., P.T.A.B., IPR2017-00913, 8/29/18 and Google Inc. v. Blackberry Ltd., P.T.A.B., IPR2017-00914, 8/29/18

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