Joff Wild

Blackberry seems to be entering a new phase of its patent monetisation programme with the initiation of litigation against Avaya in the Northern District of Texas. In a suit, which was filed on 27th July, Blackberry alleges that the Santa Clara-based company has infringed eight of its US patents relating to various mobile communications technologies. They are numbers 9143801, 8964849, 8116739, 8886212, 8688439, 7440561, 8554218 and 737296, which were originally filed as applications at the USPTO between 1998 and 2011.

The move comes just over a year since Blackberry announced itself as a major player in the monetisation space with an agreement signed with Cisco, in which the Canadian company not only secured a cross-licensing deal but also “a license fee from Cisco”. Another royalty-bearing deal was done with an unnamed company around the same time. Since then, the company has also signed two more deals with Canon and International Game Technology, both of which look to contain a royalties element to them; while in January it emerged that late last year Blackberry had sold a portfolio of patents to investment firm Centerbridge Partners for as much as $50 million.

Blackberry CEO John Chen has made clear that he sees the company’s patent assets as a key element in his plans. “We have today about 44,000 patents. The good thing about this is that we also have one of the youngest patent portfolios in the entire industry, so monetization of our patents is an important aspect of our turnaround,” he told delegates at a summit in Waterloo, Ontario, last September. He was at it again in May during an earnings call with analysts when he stated: “Many people have wanted to buy the patents … But I’m not really in a patent-selling mode, I’m in a patent licensing mode.”

In its complaint filed last week, Blackberry states that it wrote to Avaya pointing out the alleged infringements on 17th December 2015. That’s well over six months ago and, presumably, there has not been radio silence between the two since then. If that is the case, what we probably have here is one of two things: licensing negotiations have broken down, or Blackberry feels a suit is needed to get Avaya to talk seriously. Either way, having signalled its intent last summer with the Cisco deal, Blackberry is now showing Avaya – and others – that if needs be it will go to court to get the money it feels it deserves for the R&D it has done. The filing is not a brief document, it is incredibly detailed and runs to over 100 pages. It is very clear that Blackberry means business.

Hat tip to IP Hawk David Hoff for alerting me to the suit.