BlackBerry sues Typo again over latest version of add-on keyboard

BlackBerry claims the Typo2 Keyboard copies its designs and patents

BlackBerry has filed another lawsuit against the makers of the Typo keyboard, claiming that the new version of the iPhone accessory also copies its designs and patents.

Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California last year agreed to BlackBerry's request to temporarily block sales of the first version of the Typo add-on keyboard, which BlackBerry claimed was a knock-off of keyboards on its phones.

BlackBerry believes that there is still demand for phones with physical keyboards, despite the introduction by most vendors like Apple of smartphones with only touchscreen interfaces. It announced, for example, the Q10 in January 2013 and the Classic in February last year, which combine a touchscreen and a physical keyboard.

The Typo keyboard is designed to slip onto an iPhone like a protective case. Unveiled in January last year at the International CES show in Las Vegas, Typo is backed by U.S. TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest.

After getting the preliminary injunction from the court on the sale of the keyboards, BlackBerry charged that Typo had dumped the keyboards at discounted prices in the market, ahead of BlackBerry posting bond as one of the conditions of the injunction. After the bond was posted, Typo is said to have sold the keyboards to retailers abroad from its inventory and also passed on thousands of them to a friend in the U.S. to whom customers were referred.

Earlier this month, a judge granted BlackBerry's motion for contempt, awarding over US$860,000 in sanctions, plus its attorneys' fees and costs.

The smartphone maker has now filed a new suit targeting the Typo2 Keyboard, which is available in two versions, for the Apple iPhone 5/5s and the iPhone 6.

"The Typo2 Keyboard still blatantly copies BlackBerry's iconic keyboard trade dress designs that have been embodied in numerous BlackBerry smartphones from the 2007 BlackBerry 8800 to the current Q10 and Classic models," BlackBerry said in its complaint this week. The Typo2 Keyboard also infringes BlackBerry utility patents related to its proprietary keyboard design, backlighting and typing automation technologies, it added.

BlackBerry is seeking an order that the infringing products should be withdrawn, besides claiming monetary damages. Typo could not be immediately reached for comment.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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