A year ago, BlackBerry sued Typo Products LLC for patent infringement, based on the design of a snap-on keyboard. Typo’s physical keyboard was designed to attach to an iPhone, in order to mimic a BlackBerry-style QWERTY keyboard. The design was, in BlackBerry’s view, imitation that went beyond flattery and into infringement of U.S. Design Patent No. D685,775 and U.S. Patent No. 7,629,964 (Our original post Can BlackBerry Patent a Keyboard? gives more details).
A California granted a preliminary injunction (See: Ok… so BlackBerry Can Patent a Keyboard!) which took effect in April, 2014. Typo, after the preliminary injunction took effect, flouted the injunction by selling products, providing warranty replacements, and promoting products which were subject to the court order. In a judgement yesterday, the same California judge ordered Typo to pay BlackBerry $860,600 in sanctions, plus attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in connection with Typo’s contempt of court. See: BlackBerry Limited v. Typo Products LLC, Case No. 14-cv-00023-WHO for the full court order.The broader infringement issues have yet to be decided, and the litigation continues.
The interesting part of this case is how it illustrates the competitive use of IP protection for incremental improvements - in this case, an improvement to a basic QWERTY design (a design which has been around since the 1800s). It also illustrates the value of IP analysis in the competitive response by Typo. Their designers (undoubtedly working closely with patent counsel), have designed a “Typo 2″ product which is not caught by the original injunction.