RIM vs Kik, Round 3: A Patent Infringement Suit

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Updated: Research In Motion, maker of the popular BlackBerry OS and handsets, filed suit in Canada on Tuesday against Kik, creators of a popular third-party instant messaging app. According to David Lam, an Ontario-based lawyer, the suit alleges that Kik has infringed on RIM patents with its messaging software, which attracted 2.5 million users roughly one month after launching in October.

This legal action is the third shot RIM has taken at Kik, which rivals RIM’s own BlackBerry Messenger Service by providing real-time instant messaging, even across multiple phone platforms. On Nov. 12, RIM pulled Kik out of the BlackBerry App World software store, citing a breach of contractual obligations. According to Kik, just two weeks later, RIM disabled push access for Kik, leading to delayed messages for Kik users on BlackBerry devices. In addition, RIM removed Kik’s access from the BlackBerry Developer Kit and Signing Keys, effectively stopping any future BlackBerry development on Kik.

While I haven’t seen the legal complaint nor the alleged breach of contract, I’d like to see RIM and Kik work out the issues for the sake of BlackBerry users, if possible. Clearly, with such demand for Kik, it provides a service that RIM currently doesn’t — or provides a similar service that’s better. If Kik broke some contract to provide the service, that is an issue, of course, and RIM should indeed protect its rights.

But the situation illustrates another alarming example of contentious control in the mobile space: Apple has it with iOS hardware and software, Google has it in Android with its apps and marketplace and RIM has control with the centralized infrastructure services it provides. This current control issue with Kik is currently only rearing its head on BlackBerry devices; versions of Kik that are available for iOS and Android are unaffected by RIM’s actions.

Update: The full statement of claim from RIM is embedded below. Kik has also posted a response to the lawsuit on the company’s blog, entitled “A Sad Day in Waterloo,” which states:

RIM sued us yesterday… the company I worked for as a co-op student. The company I loved. The company that I thought could benefit from Kik’s vision for a mobile community. The company that placed Kik on Blackberry App World without issue. The company I shared our entire plan with every step of the way, is suing us. I’m not afraid. I’m not surprised. But I am disappointed. RIM, I wish it could have been different. I wish you would have returned our calls. I wish we could have worked together to bring great things to all of our users. Maybe next time.

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