Three patents held by BlackBerry concerning user interface elements have been invalidated this week, following Google’s decision to challenge four of them, as well as a subsequent review by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Two of the patents in question specifically apply to portions of the user interface which appear to be associated with the notification bar and similar navigation elements. In the former of the three cases, Google successfully argued that the language used by BlackBerry in its patent claims do not accurately describe the interface elements in question, noting that there was a separation between elements that BlackBerry’s claims describe as being embedded. Because of that, the technology being patented was effectively the same as that covered by previous inventions.
The board ultimately ruled that the problems with the patents would have been obvious to any person with sufficient understanding of graphical user interfaces “the time of their invention.” As a result, the two patented technologies are unpatentable. Meanwhile, the third patent was invalidated prior to this most recent ruling by a day and pertained to a timestamp displayed alongside messages. It was also at the center of a dispute between BlackBerry and BLU which was settled back in 2017. In the more recent ruling, the PTAB found that in some circumstances where the patent claim had been brought to bear, the patent was already well-defined in previous patents not held by BlackBerry. As of this writing, Google has one more challenge remaining to be reviewed by the board with regard to a patent claimed by BlackBerry.
In the meantime, BlackBerry is currently involved in at least three other lawsuits regarding its patents. The first two of those series involves Snap Inc.’s Snapchat service and a total of seven patents. Facebook hasn’t escaped the fray either and has been accused of infringing on messaging patents through its subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram. Those cases were filed back in April and March of this year, respectively. The latter case pits Nokia as the defendant and was filed last year. However, unlike the other patent infringement cases brought by BlackBerry, the allegation against Nokia is that the latter company infringed on BlackBerry’s mobile networking technologies. None of those trials is expected to begin until at least 2020.