Research In Motion Ltd. has launched a patent infringement lawsuit against one of the fastest-growing app developers in the world.
RIM filed a statement of claim in Federal Court this week against Kik Interactive Ltd., a small Waterloo, Ont.-based software firm responsible for Kik Messenger, a smart-phone application that lets users instantly send messages to one another on BlackBerrys, iPhones and mobile devices running Google’s Android operating system.
In the month since its launch, Kik Messenger has amassed more than two million users. Two weeks after Kik’s software hit the BlackBerry app store, however, RIM banned the application.
Now, the BlackBerry maker is arguing that Kik Messenger infringes on RIM’s own BlackBerry Messenger, an instant-messaging application that has proven to be wildly popular with BlackBerry users.
Ted Livingston, chief executive officer of Kik, was previously employed at RIM on three occasions, Research In Motion says in its statement of claim filed with the court. Following his employment at the BlackBerry maker, he quickly went about starting his own instant-messaging app, RIM says.
“Initially, to gain access to and integrate its applications with RIM’s BlackBerry infrastructure, the Defendant represented to RIM that it was developing a music-sharing device to integrate with the BlackBerry Messenger platform,” RIM alleges in its filing with the Federal Court in Toronto.
“Instead the Defendant created a cross-platform instant-messaging application for use with various smart-phone platforms.”
Although the core of RIM’s claim is that Mr. Livingston’s company infringed on RIM’s intellectual property rights, the court file also contains other claims. RIM further alleges that the Kik application, once installed on a BlackBerry, accessed a user’s personal information, such as contact lists, without the user’s consent.
“Kik unfairly benefited from its decision to unlawfully access and use the end users’ personal information as a means of driving the growth of its business,” RIM said in its statement of claim.
In a response posted on the KIK website, Mr. Livingston said: “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.”
Kik called RIM’s lawsuit unjustified, and plans to “vigorously defend” against it.
None of RIM’s allegations have been proved in court.
By some measures, Kik is one of the fastest-growing application developers ever, drawing more than two million users in a month. In comparison, PingChat, a similar cross-platform messaging app launched for the iPhone in late 2009 and for the BlackBerry and Android last summer, has 5.5 million users. That app has many of the same features as Kik, but doesn’t automatically go through a user’s address book to find other app users.
RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger boasts about 30 million users, and is frequently listed as the main factor contributing to new BlackBerry purchases by consumers. Unlike Kik and PingChat, however, BBM is not cross-platform: Only BlackBerry users can take advantage of it to communicate with other BlackBerry users.
For many consumers – especially teens and young adults – instant-messaging apps are quickly replacing text-messaging. The technology is seen as faster and less expensive than the traditional text message. Many smart-phone messaging apps also allow users to send multimedia, such as audio and video files.
“I think more people, especially the younger generation, have a need to communicate, and the quickness of messages is quite critical,” said Gary Fung, co-founder of Enflick, the company behind PingChat. “Sending e-mail just doesn’t cut it.”