Judge blocks sales of Typo keyboard on BlackBerry request

California court finds the Ryan Seacrest-backed keyboard could infringe BlackBerry's patents

A California judge has granted BlackBerry's wish to temporarily halt sales of an iPhone keyboard produced by start-up Typo Products while the two companies argue over alleged copyright infringement.

BlackBerry had petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in late January to block sales of the Typo keyboard because it was an "obvious knock-off" of the keyboards on its phones.

In a ruling issued late Friday, Judge William Orrick said "BlackBerry has established a likelihood of proving that Typo infringes the patents at issue and Typo has not presented a substantial question of the validity of those patents."

The court's decision will be a blow to Typo, which had asserted that its keyboards were sufficiently different.

The Typo keyboard was first unveiled in January and is designed to slip onto an iPhone 5 or 5S like a protective case. It costs $99 and has received attention in part because Typo is backed by U.S. TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest.

BlackBerry quickly moved to sue Typo claiming its keyboard was a copy of those found on BlackBerry handsets.

The company currently sells several phones with a physical keyboard and plans to launch at least one more later this year.

Earlier Friday, CEO John Chen said BlackBerry would launch a new model called the Q20 "Classic" later this year that includes the trackpad and 'Menu,' 'Back,' 'Send' and 'End' buttons along the top of the keyboard that helped make the company famous.

As a next step in the California case, BlackBerry will have to post a bond with the court that would cover Typo's losses should it eventually be decided that Typo's keyboard does not infringe on BlackBerry's patents.

Typo has a week to come up with a detailed accounting of how much money it could lose as a result of the injunction.

Typo could not immediately be reached for comment.

The case is 14-00023, BlackBerry vs Typo Products, at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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