The Munich Regional Court has ruled that Facebook with functions of the apps “WhatsApp”, “Instagram”, “Messenger” and “Facebook” violates patents of the competitor Blackberry. The decision is not yet final. However, if it is confirmed or accepted, Facebook must either modify the apps or switch them off in Germany.
The decision was made on December 6. Facebook still has the possibility to lodge an appeal – so it is not yet legally binding. However, the ruling is provisionally enforceable. This means that Blackberry has the option of depositing a certain amount of money as security and thus forcing Facebook to react before a final decision is made. If Blackberry makes use of this option, Facebook must immediately ensure that the functions that are suspected of infringing Blackberry’s patents disappear from the apps concerned. If a decision is ultimately made in favor of Facebook, the security deposited by Blackberry can be used to offset the costs incurred.
Facebook has already reacted. A spokesman announced that new versions of the apps had already been created in which the controversial functions were no longer used. Facebook has also challenged Blackberry’s patents before the Federal Patent Court.
The patents concern various functions. For example, they deal with encryption techniques, the integration of messaging services into games and the technical implementation of message transmission. The extent to which the core functions of the apps are affected by this is not clear. It is therefore also not foreseeable whether users will be confronted with far-reaching changes if Facebook should finally lose the legal dispute.
Blackberry was once a pioneer in the smartphone sector. With the rise of Google and Apple in this area, however, Blackberry’s importance declined rapidly. Today, the company no longer plays a major role in the smartphone market. However, Blackberry holds a number of patents from the pioneering days of the industry that relate to the basic functions of smartphones and applications.