BlackBerry files lawsuit against Typo iPhone keypad [Update: Typo responds]

In the middle of BlackBerry's attempt to relaunch itself as an enterprise-based handset maker, the company is also going after a startup that it claims is copying its well known QWERTY keyboard design. Today, BlackBerry announced it has filed a lawsuit against Typo, which recently announced it is selling an iPhone keypad add-on device.

The Typo was first announced a few weeks ago and is being made for iPhone 5 and 5s handsets. The $99 add-on, which is scheduled to be released later this month, is supposed to offer a better typing experience for the touchscreen-only iPhone while also adding just 3/4 of an inch to the phone's length. One of the company's two co-founders happens to be Ryan Seacrest, best known for his TV hosting efforts on American Idol.

In a press release, BlackBerry claims that Typo "has blatantly copied BlackBerry’s keyboard" for its design. It added, "We are flattered by the desire to graft our keyboard onto other smartphones, but we will not tolerate such activity without fair compensation for using our intellectual property and our technological innovations." We have contacted Typo to see if they plan to respond to the lawsuit.

Update: Typo has sent over their own statement on the BlackBerry lawsuit:

We are aware of the lawsuit that Blackberry filed today against Typo Products. Although we respect Blackberry and its intellectual property, we believe that Blackberry’s claims against Typo lack merit and we intend to defend the case vigorously. We are excited about our innovative keyboard design, which is the culmination of years of development and research. The Typo keyboard has garnered an overwhelmingly positive response from the public. We are also looking forward to our product launch at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week and remain on track to begin shipping pre-orders at the end of January.

Source: BlackBerry | Images via Typo and BlackBerry

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31 Comments

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Here's a proper comparative image: http://i42.tinypic.com/2ngtmr7.jpg
The problem isn't that it's a keyboard. The problem is that it's blindingly obvious that the design team for the keyboard copied very liberally every aspect of the BB keyboard. The dividing lines between the keys, the layout of the keys, the shortcuts and the curvature of each key have all been copied.
What's sad is that they didn't need to copy the design; in doing so they only cheapened the product. It looks like the bottom of an iphone has been sawn off and the bottom of a Blackberry glued on. It would have looked far better to design something unique and more fitting to the device its designed for.

There's another button in the far lower left and the far lower right. Because of that change, Blackberry will lose this one and all they have done is drawn attention to this arguably niche upon niche product.

Looks like the idea behind the product was to make it like a BlackBerry. I can imagine the conversation already. I hate Blackberry, love iPhoine, but love the BlackBerry keyboard. Bam. Copy it.

John can you also please post the full un - paraphrased statement from BlackBerry as you have posted the one from Typo?

I think most of you missing the point, the keyboard DESIGN is patented but not the actual keyboard. Everyone can create a keyboard, definitely no issue with that. But once that keyboard design heavily similar with someone else's design.. then we do have an issue here.

They could've come up with a design say.. keys in circles.. or boxes.. but instead they came up with a design that totally similiar with someone elses - BB in this case, they know it works and everyone like them.

So nah, ill stick with Blackberry on this one.

mr_sock_00 said,
Haha, even the function keys are identical to the Q series.

Especially Q10. Wish John would post the Q10 picture next to Typo instead of using an legacy device to "lighten" the similarity.

Yeah I was about to reply to your comment about that. Seems to mislead the reader that keyboard isn't as similar. Whenever they cover certain manufacturers, there's a certain level of quality.

John can you please use a picture of Q10 which has flat keyboard instead of the legacy device for a better comparison?

While there are a couple of extra keys on the new device, the shape of the individual keys looks very similar to the BB, where the key's side closest to the center of the keyboard is rounded. Weird stuff.

That thing has to be incredibly annoying to use since it covers up the home button.\

Edit: nvm, looks like the bottom right key might be a "home" key.

Not really sure how Blackberry has a case here. There are tons of phones that have been on the market with physical keyboards. Unless they have a patent on something specific, they can't do a thing about this.

i don't see many people buying them when they're expecting a bigger iphone out soon, and i doubt this will fit it

Exactly. I don't feel BB should have been allowed a patent on the keyboard in the first place. I don't see anything patent-worthy about a BB keyboard; BB keyboards aren't even that good, they are tiny and cramped. Where do you draw the line at where it's just another keyboard, or if it's patent infringement?

Liana said,
Exactly. I don't feel BB should have been allowed a patent on the keyboard in the first place. I don't see anything patent-worthy about a BB keyboard; BB keyboards aren't even that good, they are tiny and cramped. Where do you draw the line at where it's just another keyboard, or if it's patent infringement?

Key locations and specific combined characters.

This is where they goofed up, they could have done a keyboard without combinations and placement that is like the BB. However, it was specifically BB fans that they created this keyboard product for, so it makes sense they would copy the BB.

This is what patents are designed to protect.

If they aren't trying to recreate the BB, just don't use the BB layout.

Very true and there are MANY blatent blackberry ripoffs on the market now at the 30-50 pound price point that are /really/ like the blackberry. I don't see Blackberry going for any of those companies though.

http://www.tesco.com/direct/te...geLevel=&skuId=211-7083

http://www.tesco.com/direct/te...geLevel=&skuId=215-4705

http://www.tesco.com/direct/te...geLevel=&skuId=211-2148

http://www.tesco.com/direct/or...geLevel=&skuId=212-5501


If anything, hats off to the creators of this keyboard for the iPhone, although it's a bit clunky, it's as elegant as solution as I can imagine to add a physical keyboard to it. (aesthetics aside)

Is that a mockup of the actual product in the first image? It really does look like someone Photoshopped a BB keyboard onto an iPhone.

Figure 8 Dash said,
Is that a mockup of the actual product in the first image? It really does look like someone Photoshopped a BB keyboard onto an iPhone.

All the Blackberries I have seen, have slightly curved keyboards. Also, how much ways can you make a keyboard?

The latest devices, the Q10 and Q5 dropped that slight curvature.
And there indeed are only so many ways to make a keyboard, but the thin metal lines that separate the rows of keys are really BlackBerry's signature design! This is definitely a BB keyboard, drop the lines and it becomes a regular keyboard.

farmeunit said,

All the Blackberries I have seen, have slightly curved keyboards. Also, how much ways can you make a keyboard?

And how much rounded rectangles can you patent ?
/s