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BlackBerry is suing Facebook for patent infringement, and Facebook ‘intends to fight’

BlackBerry claims that Facebook is using its technology inside WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Justin Sullivan / Getty

BlackBerry, a former messaging powerhouse, is suing Facebook, a current messaging powerhouse, for patent infringement, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in California.

BlackBerry claims that Facebook “created mobile messaging applications that co-opt BlackBerry’s innovations,” and cite a number of patents that cover things like messaging security and messaging notifications.

The company also says that Facebook is using its IP in a number of its products, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram.

In a statement from Facebook’s Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal, Facebook dismissed BlackBerry’s claims and promised to fight.

“BlackBerry’s suit sadly reflects the current state of its messaging business,” the statement reads. “Having abandoned its efforts to innovate, BlackBerry is now looking to tax the innovation of others. We intend to fight.”

Facebook has copied numerous competitor products in the past, from Foursquare check-ins to Snapchat facial features and Stories. But the tech industry evolves so quickly and companies borrow so many ideas from one another that oftentimes these “copycat” products don’t actual merit an expensive, drawn-out legal battle.

But that might be what BlackBerry is looking for here. The company seems to be using its tens of thousands of patents as a kind of business model. Last year, BlackBerry sued Nokia for patent infringement, and won more than $800 million in a settlement with Qualcomm. It also sued enterprise communications company Avaya in mid-2016.

Update: A BlackBerry spokesperson sent Recode the following statement about the lawsuit, which includes a response to our suggestion the company may be using patent lawsuits as a kind of business model.

Protecting shareholder assets and intellectual property is the job of every CEO, it is not central to BlackBerry’s strategy however. ... We have a lot of respect for Facebook and the value they’ve placed on messaging capabilities, some of which were invented by BlackBerry. As a cybersecurity and embedded software leader, BlackBerry’s view is that Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp could make great partners in our drive toward a securely connected future, and we continue to hold this door open to them. 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.

Correction: The headline and text have been changed to convey “patent” infringement, not “copyright.”

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