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Ryan Seacrest-founded startup sued by BlackBerry over iPhone add-on keyboard

Ryan Seacrest
Ryan Seacrest
Wikimedia Commons

Typo Keyboard, which is backed and co-founded by "American Idol's" Ryan Seacrest, has earned its first lawsuit, The Verge reported on Friday. The company, which was created when Seacrest and Show Media CEO Laurence Hallier realized that the fact that the iPhone did not have a hard keyboard meant that they -- like many of their acquaintances -- carried two phones, one for iPhone-ing and one for typing, was scheduled to make its public debut at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next week.

They have been sued by -- wonder of wonders -- BlackBerry. This isn't the first time the formerly high-flying Canadian company has sued over its keyboard patents; the company targeted PDA-developer Handspring (later acquired by the now defunct Palm) in early 2002, saying the physical keyboard's functionality too closely resembled that found in the iconic keyboards of its BlackBerry phones. Eventually, Handspring licensed those patents, and the complaint was dropped.

In this case, Typo Keyboard would be a third-party add-on and slip-on case for the iPhone 5 or 5s. Pre-orders are available now, with free delivery available once the device ships. Of course, that ship date is a rather vague January 2014 -- and may be delayed by this lawsuit.

Steve Zipperstein, BlackBerry’s General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer, said in a statement:

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.

BlackBerry’s iconic physical keyboard designs have been recognized by the press and the public as a significant market differentiator for its mobile handheld devices.

It's true that many BlackBerry ownsers have said that they have not defected to iOS because they love, not just a real keyboard, but the BlackBerry keyboard,

Still, one has to wonder how many ways the keys on a QWERTY keyboard can be arranged.

Update: In a statement released to the press, Typo Keyboards said,

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.