updated 02:10 pm EST, Wed December 1, 2010
RIM sues Kik in Canada for BBM patent infringement
RIM late Tuesday sued Kik for allegedly infringing on three patents relating to BlackBerry Messenger. The exact details of the lawsuit aren't public but include accusations that Kik chief Ted Livingston used knowledge when he worked at RIM in 2007 and 2008 to copy BBM. His inside access let him see RIM's future plans and build on them when he later left to form Kik, the suit claimed.
The BlackBerry maker has shown an unusual change of attitude towards Kik since it became available. Kik was once the highlight of BlackBerry DevCon but suddenly fell out of favor in the past month, when RIM first pulled the app from BlackBerry App World and later disabled push support, rendering the app mostly useless even for those who already had copies. The Canadian phone company claimed that Kik had "breached contractual obligations" but has refused to say what those were.
Both BBM and Kik have been characterized as "real-time texting" and share similar, though not identical, notifications of when a user has seen, sent or is typing a message. Unlike BBM, however, Kik is independent and has support on both Android and iOS with cross-platform chat between both.
Critics have suggested that RIM's attempts to censure Kik even before the lawsuit were attempts to squelch a competing service that could let users switch away from the BlackBerry without losing their social contacts. BBM has often been cited as one of the main reasons for BlackBerry owners to stay on the platform since it's often provided with BlackBerry phone service even for those who don't have full data plans.
The handset designer may have reason for concern, since it has been losing customers to rivals either frustrated with the aging BlackBerry OS or who were looking for faster, larger-screened and more media-friendly hardware. [via David Lam]