(Updated) Oh SNAP! Research In Motion suing Kik for patent infringement

By Kevin Michaluk on 1 Dec 2010 09:23 am EST

RIM suing Kik

* Update: Statement of Claims are publicly viewable documents, so if you want the details on RIM vs. Kik you can click here to download the pdf and check them out for yourself. In addition to the claims of infringing on three patents, another issue at play here is that Kik's founder Ted Livingston used to work for RIM... wait for it... on the BlackBerry Messenger team. Ouch. You can check out Kik's latest blog post on the subject here too. Maybe RIM should just buy Kik. That would solve everybody's problems ;) *

Research In Motion isn't buying into Kik's tag line of "play nice." Filed yesterday in Canada's Federal Court in Toronto, RIM filed a statement of claim against Kik Interactive Inc for patent infringement (see court filing T-1996-10). Odds are a US suit will follow shortly as well. We recently posted RIM's official statement regarding the removal of Kik Messenger from App World, which stated:

RIM became aware of a number of issues and customer concerns regarding the Kik app and service. Following discussions with Kik, the app was removed from BlackBerry App World on November 12. Upon further investigation, RIM concluded that Kik had breached contractual obligations. Based on the broad scope and seriousness of the issues and concerns, RIM terminated its agreements with Kik and withdrew RIM's support for Kik's service.

For those not familiar with Kik, it's a cross-platform (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry) instant messenger application that resembles a very basic version of BlackBerry Messenger in that it features Sent and Read confirmations (and is pretty quick to use!). Kik has also been getting a lot of attention, growing from 0 to over 2 million users in its first month after relaunching. I guess we now know what one of those "issues" is that RIM has with Kik. I'm also guessing Kik downloads for BlackBerry won't be resuming anytime soon....

Source: David Lam's law blog

Reader comments

(Updated) Oh SNAP! Research In Motion suing Kik for patent infringement


If RIM added chat to their Facebook app then we wouldn't need a cross platform BBM. It would be a simple fix that would keep their #1 consumer selling feature a monopoly on BB. IPhone and Android already do this.

Even the little guy is not excused from a business model that includes stealing from others, whether intentional or not. A lot of people here are focusing on the obvious, like delivered/read notifications. But it's much more likely the infringement deals with code behind the scenes or the way a certain function is implemented.

KiK took off like wild fire. Maybe whatever intellectual property of RIM's they were using gave them an advantage and that's why it became so popular so quickly.

I don't think RIM has a problem with fair, healthy competition. There are plenty of other IM platforms similar to BBM that are not subject to RIM's focus. But clearly there is something different about KiK and I don't have a problem with RIM's defending their property.

I came to say the same thing. If the infringement case is legitimate, RIM has every right to take action. Successful people, corporations don't get where they are by giving everything away.

The copycat game only lasts so long until the original finds out. Kik sure did it alright. Now they're in deep crumbles.

It would be understandable if Kik wasn't a BB app but it is so they're not stealing anything. so what if the developer knows a little bit more about the BBM platform than other devs, RIM provides the tooks, api, and access for any developer to create a Kik app. He didn't steal anything or do anything special. he built and app to run on the BB. If there was a problem with the app why did RIM approve it in the first place. Its because the app became popular and was competing with BBM.

What i think Rim is becoming the new apple everything that does better than them but is somewhat similar they need to kill it...If they knew there was something wrong with kik why they let it to the app world in the first place, jum i know because kik wasn't as huge as now....just my opinion...Really rim is getting on my nerves they themeselves dont push anything worth it and when something comes to spike the seen they take it down...damn i really love my bb but i dont know i a can take a few more months with this...

"everything that does better than them but is somewhat sirmilar they need to kill it..."

I used kik (I ultimately decided pingchat was the better option before these issues arose) and it was OK but this description is magnanimous to the extreme.

I might add, that in its current state, pingchat is nice but it has aways to go before it compares to BBM or any of the BlackBerry IM apps.

As long as by "everything" you mean "one application" and by "better than" you mean "implementations with fewer features" ... well, even then there's not much logic in your statement. There are other cross-platform IM solutions, some duplicating RIM's solutions -- yet they're not going after those. There are other Twitter clients (some better than RIMs) and they're not going after those. There are solutions that compete with their upcoming security/recovery/location features, but those aren't being chased.

So what foundation for your argument that "everything that does better than them but is somewhat similar they need to kill it", other than a single app which has some similarities to a RIM native app?

It is quite common in corporate America for these kind of suits to occur. In many cases, it has been RIM that has been sued for similar allegations. These suits are a business unto themselves and wouldn't occur if there wasn't merit to the claims. However, it can be arduous to prove infringement sometimes, resulting in settlements. In this case, with the KIK founder/president being a form RIM employee and a member of the BBM team, depending on the terms of any non-compete statements in his contract/separation agreements, there might be some validity to this case.
What I don't understand is how RIM allowed this to get into BB App World without better vetting the product.

I would prefer RIM find a way to license its BBM technology so that other platforms can use it and tie in with BBM. I don't know how to scale the costs and I understand RIM has a vested interest in using BBM as a leash to its BlackBerry/PlayBook line of devices.

This is my vision for RIM: http://goo.gl/q6s0n

i dont know much but i think since their will be no support for the app, kik dont function that well and theres no push...so waths the point of having it...and its freaking sad because i really loved kik, now i went with ping chat its good and free....

Why is RIM suing Kik and not any of the other multiplatform messengers out there like Whatsapp and Pingchat? What did Kik do that was different, or will they all be sued eventually?

I get that BBM is a valuable asset to keep customers, but suing small startups isn't good for PR and I think RIM may lose out in the end.

I've never used any of these 3rd party messaging platforms before, but it might be because Kik uses the delivered and read notifications, which I assume RIM has patents for. Not sure if Whatsapp and the like use similar notifications.

Both Ping and Whatsapp give you delivered and read notifications, Whatsapp also shows you when the other person is typing.

I can't imagine what Kik did differently. Maybe because it got very popular very fast.

pingchat has the same "status notifications", whatsapp has one for sent, one for "received by handset", but it does not let you know if it has been read like pingchat/kik/bbm do.

i think RIM just got scared cause kik was nice, fast, looked similar to bbm, and if they had added multimedia sharing and group chat, it would have been a bbm clon (and killer ?)

While all these emotional and exaggerated responses are entertaining, they really have no merit.
Patents/ intellectual property are important to the economy as they inspire innovation and protect innovators from others stealing their ideas without permission. Since none of us know all the details of this suit yet, there is no point (unless you are just looking for opportunities to bash RIM) in judging RIM for protecting their interests.
The case will be judged on its merits within the judicial system.

Oh come on now, who can blame them. If you came up with a program that was propriarity and that you have trademarked, why wouldn't you sue for patent infringement if someone tried to market a similar program? Don't blame RIM for doing what they have every right to do, blame KIK for copying a copywrighted program. RIM, Apple, Google, Microsoft, HP/Palm, every one of these companies would do the exact same thing in the same situation. Come on people...

its true what you say but why they didn't sued in the first place before letting them into app world, doesnt it sound a bit suspicious and there others like ping chat who in my opinion work the same as kik, and have the delivered and recieved method someone mentioned...

You have ZERO clue what was infringed upon. How do you know RIM knew that KiK was infrindging on their patents before they were accepted to app world? How do you know that KiK didn't reverse engineer the actual protocol that BBM uses for communication? And only after closely examining KiK in action did RIM find out about it. Not enough is known at this point and you're trying to make RIM out to be the bad guy when in fact you don't know whats even going on yet.

Finally! A voice of reason.

It would be nice to know more about just which line in the sand Kik crossed though; if only to quiet the naysayers. Fat chance of that now. RIM will be in legal mode now, so we'll just have to glean facts through affidavits and such.

Or rather, Kevin and the gang will have to, and then post the distilled gist on the blog.

That's exactly what I was thinking! These moronic posts bashing RIM don't even break the surface tension on what is actually happening. Noone knows for sure what happened except RIM, KIK and the Canadian Court lol

It seems to me that RIM letting the app into App World would suggest that RIM's process for accepting apps is pretty open as they have repeatedly said and does not involve the kind of scrutiny that would be required to determine the patent infringement alleged here.

I note, BTW, that pingchat has stated that they have 5.5 million users. The attention to kik's growth has been because its user growth has been fast, not because it has the largest user base. Also, as other similar BBM clone apps have been around longer than kik including whatsapp and pingchat, I would think that the problem is with how kik is doing what it does not that it is doing it.

RIM can't have it all! Either share BBM with other platforms or allow others to give us a BBM-like experience. It wasn't my choice for my sister and my brother to move away from BlackBerry, but why should I be punished by not being allowed to BBM with them?

this is truly funny! How dare RIM deny you your God given right to BBM people who use other platforms! Shame on RIM.

You know what I was unconvinced before but this is too much, I am going to throw my BlackBerry in the garbage right now and go get a new phone. Hopefully, AT&T will respect my right to have a smartphone and give me a new non-BlackBerry phone of my choosing gratis.

Glad you got a kick out of it, as that was certainly my intent. Not get off your high horse.

I don't even use BBM anymore, because I simply don't know anyone else who has one. If I could use it with the people I used to BBM with, I would. Unfortunately, my husband has an android and my sister has an iPhone.

God given right? Wow. Just wow.

Your retort could be justified slightly if I had said that I was going to go chuck my BlackBerry in the bin and switch platforms. Please notice that I did not...

You realize there are many other cross-platform IM solutions right? For BB, you have multiple clients that provide AIM, Google Talk, Live and ICQ chat. There are is also PingChat (with 2x+ more users than Kik), WhatApp and others.

It seems obvious that the issue here is not the cross-platform IM, but something specific about Kik's implementation.

I do, actually, realize that there are other cross-platform options. I've tried three. Google Talk, PingChat and KiK all drained my battery far too quickly. I have enough battery issues as it is to deal with that.

I am truly perplexed now because your comment seemed to clearly suggest that RIM was blocking all options.

Based on the examples you give of your experience, it sounds to me like RIM is "allow[ing] others to give us a BBM-like experience". The problem seems to be that you are not happy with what RIM is "allowing" others to deliver.

Regarding my response original response, I figured you might appreciate a similarly toned and humorous retort (oh well). The issues between RIM and kik do not necessarily equal the demise of all cross-platform IM.

P.S. My experience was that kik drained my battery like crazy. Pingchat not so much and I can live with it. Google Talk (and all of the RIM issued IM apps) is excellent on the battery. In fact, if there was a native Google Talk client for the iPhone my need for any of these other apps would disappear.

No one's trying to bash RIM - not me anyway.

I can see why they want to sue Kik, I just can't see why they haven't taken action against other companies who provide the exact same service and have been around a lot longer than Kik. As was said, we'll have to wait for the details of the suit to emerge.

I think before everyone gets their panties in a bunch they should step back and wait until the full details come out before burning RIM at the stake. So relax.

I would agree that RIM has every right to pursue litigation. They have a responsibility to protect their intellectual property against other people/companies that swoop in and try to use it to their own advantage. Whatsapp and ping probably don't have this issue because theur service delivery platform may differ from the sdp that KiK employs which may indicate that KiK has somehow used similar technology that RIM uses for BBM.

The size of a startup or how much empathy people have for a certain company be damned. This is dollars and cents and RIM needs to do what it needs to do to protect its marketshare. All those users who are comparing RIM to Apple you need to get more perspective. RIM is nowhere NEAR the totalitarianism that Apple is at.

KiK should create a newer better platform instead of copying what RIM is using. That would be innovation.

The whole story is not known but I am thinking that Kik used codes propietary to bbm or inside knowledge of how bbm worked. RIM wouldn't be sueing if it didn't have any grounds for their arguement. RIM probably didn't have any knowledge until it came to their attention and put a magnifying glass on Kik. Am sure will know the full story soon.

Weird how quick some people are to decide Rim are the bad guys here when the fact that they have done nothing to any of the other cross-platform chat clients would tend to imply that the makers of Kik were actually doing something a bit dodgy and were the ones in the wrong.

I haven't read the court documents, so I have no specific knowledge of this case. That being said, Kik is being sued for patent infringement. This leads me to believe that RIM believes that Kik back-engineered BBM source code. This is just speculation....but there may be a reason why Kik looks and performs like a very basic version of BlackBerry Messenger.

Also, let's not forget that Kik has been accused of collecting phone data without the permission of users. That fact alone would make me not want to use the IM program.

Isn't KIK located in Waterloo, ON as well?? I'm sure RIM employees found there way over to KIK..or at least some of their intellectual property...who knows though.

Yeah, they are right by University of Waterloo. Personally, I'd rather just see BBM ported to other platforms. Maybe with reduced functionality. As to intice people to still buy RIM products.

You are all missing one huge point about kik that differs them from the others.

Kik scans the users contact list and there is no option to prevent this. This has already caused some awkward situations for me as for example I may have deleted someone from my phone but they didn't delete me and kik automatically adds us to each others list regardless.

I can see this as a huge issue. I'm positive it's not over the platform otherwise whatsapp and ping, etc would have been sued too. I support RIM on this one. There's more to this I'm sure that we aren't aware of and I'm pretty sure kik isn't exactly being as transparent as they're appearing to be.

This is an awesome opportunity for KiK to do a HUGE marketing push for all other platforms. So when this suit fails the marketing push for BB will be simple as this is the only messenger that RIM has been scared of enough to file a lawsuit. There are several ways to accomplish delivery reports, which im sure is one of rims biggest issues.
Any press is good press Kik, go get 'em.
While I think RIM has every right to sue, they better be sure they can win this one.

Everybody needs to get the sand out of their vaginas...Just because Kik is the little guy, doesn't mean they didn't mess up. Reverse engineering BBM code, scanning contact lists without users permission, ***RUMORS*** (note that I said rumors people) that an ex-RIM employee who worked on the BBM platform works for Kik (coincidental, don't ya think?)

Just give RIM a shot to out the reason for the lawsuit...which will come in time. Then judge the two companies on what has really happened. Believe me RIM's PR will come out with a statement soon enough as they know we're all watching...

Now everybody sit back, relax and have a nice glass of shut the hell up! 'Nuff said..

Well said.

But I have sand in my crack not my vagina... don't have one of those.
It has been said over and over. We don't know the details. And the fact remains, this is big business. Not fly by night , backroom high school stuff. Kik pulled on their big boy pants and stepped up and if they messed up somewhere, well little guy or not, they knew the consequences.

I've read all the comments and I must say, I am on RIM's side with this decision. We do not know the exact reason why they are suing Kik but if they are taking contact list and emails I would say, you people aren't safe. RIM likes to protect its customers and make sure our safety is the number one priority.

Lol after going through some of the comments on this post, I realize that some members of CB aren't capable of reading well. LOL...RIM is suing KIK because of patent infringement NOT because of how well KIK is doing. I think KIK should be sued if the company is guilty of the accusation. Also I don't think its a bad idea to crush the BBM copies....all of them! Lol

I think the problem is that RIM didn't like the fact that there was a decent app in App World

Or, one that got used more than QuickPull

The rest of the mobile world is innovating and RIM is having pissing matches with third rate messaging companies. Pretty much sums up why RIM is getting left behind.

guys the lawsuit has just been filed it'll probably be years before anything gets solved OR most likely it'll be an out-of-court settlement.

Interesting perspective. Do you know something the rest of us don't? Or are you just looking for an opportunity to bash RIM?

Rim are bunch of dumb asses. Kik is a great platform.
Only thing rim has is their precious bbm. Rim .... two thumbs down!

Pretty sad on RIM's part. Sure it's similar to BBM, but it's definitely not the same thing. I guess they need revenue some how. Sure isn't coming in from making the same phone OVER, and OVER again with the same boring feature set.

Some of the people on here are just so dumb. They bash RIM for anything and everything. RIM did the right move if KiK is doing this kinda stuff.

I'm going to do a little speculating here. If Kik's alleged patent infringements only had to do with the BlackBerry client and associated RIM services, wouldn't the shutdown of RIM services, which kills use of the app, prevent further use of the infringed patent? Now for sure RIM would still have a case since Kik was at one time allegedly infringing the patent, but this just makes me wonder if the infringement is still happening. Perhaps the IOS and Android clients also infringe on these patents? Could RIM be suing for a total shutdown of KIK, across ALL platforms? Maybe the infringed patents have to do with Kik's server side technology instead of the clients.

"Maybe RIM should just buy Kik. That would solve everybody's problems."

For the sake of your intelligence and self-respect, I hope you're joking when you say this.

I wish I could find the email from kik explaining why they went from an sms based messenger to full out data messenger. I'm having this thought they moved to their new servers after they were accepted into app world.

It is stated elsewhere that Kiks founder worked for RIM (rumour has it as a co-op) - therefore he would have been wise to get legal advice before setting a company to compete with a RIM product. No doubt he signed contracts saying he would not do so.

BBM is far and away the best messaging tool out there, and the reason is "push". The only way for other devices to simulate push without expensive additional hardware is by polling every few seconds, which consumes masses of power and drains batteries quickly.

So Kik really doesn't present that much of a threat to RIM in terms of the software (especially now their push account has been canceled), but quite likely exposes a BB users PIN to non BlackBerry users and therefore is not a great idea.

While the action by RIM may appear to be the big guy stomping on the little guy, its also the big guy protecting personal data of the consumer - and therefore to be applauded.

One thing Kik has proved is that there is a huge market for a decent messaging platform on mobile devices.

BlackBerry developers have realised for several years there would be a massive market for a cross platform BBM, but RIM made it pretty clear they didn't want that - despite a limited opening of their APIs for BBM.

I'm still not sure why. Adding an XMPP gateway to BES or BIS seems like a great way to demonstrate BlackBerrys huge advantage as a messaging device. However RIM clearly don't wish to provide this service, and my guess is that Kiks founder knew this - given that he worked in their messaging group! I can only imagine that he didn't come clean to their developer support group what he was doing.

Either way, RIM are missing a huge revenue generation potential. Jim Balsillie apparently doesn't really believe in apps - does he have a clue? They really need a software visionary at the top if they're ever going to reach their potential.

By the way, Kiks office is a 5 minute walk from the RIM campus and just across the road from one of the RIM offices.

Jim Balsillie didn't say he didn't believe in apps. What he said was you don't need an app that simply duplicates the contents of a website, a dig at Apple. Your tablet should be able to browse that site fully. If a company already invested in a developing a website, it shouldn't need to create an app to present the same information on a tablet.

RIM would greatly benefit from apps more so for its smartphones and they are obviously aware of that.

The media whether on purpose or not took his comments out of context.

i use WHATSAPP, is a lot better than the bbm specially when i use my iphone to connect to the dark side (BLACKBERRY CELLPHONES). no PIN number require just your phone number in the contact book. so far is the best and popular messenger that i been use

As a small business owner and I think this is a bad idea, I understand RIM wanting to protect patents but the reality is this is going to put app developers off creating apps for a platform/ store that's major issue is a lack of good apps. Sure there are a few good ones but not a lot and the number of apps is laughable compared to what you get on Android and iPhones.

RIM should have settled this quitely.

(Judging from the number of defensive comments can I assume that half of Blackberry owners on this site are lawyers or work for RIM?)