RIM faces possible class action suit over BlackBerry outages

A software firm has also filed a trademark infringement case for RIM's use of the BBX name

Research In Motion faces a possible class action lawsuit over recent outages in its BlackBerry services earlier this month, and a trademark infringement complaint for its use of the BBX name for its upcoming platform for its tablets and smartphones.

Consumer Law Group (CLG), a Canadian law firm, said Tuesday it has filed in the Quebec Superior Court a proposed national class action lawsuit against RIM on behalf of individuals who have BlackBerry smartphones and pay for a monthly data plan, but were unable to access their email, BlackBerry Messenger service, or Internet from Oct. 11 to Oct. 14.

The lawsuit was filed by CLG on behalf of the lead plaintiff, M. Blackette, a BlackBerry customer with a data plan from a local operator.

"The lawsuit is only dealing with the refund of people's data plan charges during the outage. No punitive damages, nor inconvenience is being claimed," said Jeff Orenstein, a CLG attorney, in an email. "Plain and simple: if you pay for a service you should receive it. And if you don't, you should be entitled to get your money back."

In a separate action in the U.S., a software company said it filed a complaint on Monday in the United States District Court, District of New Mexico, alleging that RIM's use of the BBX name infringes its trademark for its software. Basis International of Albuquerque, New Mexico said it had written on Oct. 19 through its counsel to RIM, a day after RIM announced the new platform, asking it to cease all use of the BBX mark.

Basis said last week it had taken legal action to preserve and protect its "longstanding ownership" of the BBx trademarked operating system-independent language, database, and toolset, but did not specify the action.

RIM was not immediately available for comment. The company said last week it had not yet seen the legal complaint from Basis, but did not believe the marks are confusing because the two companies are in different lines of business.

The Blackberry service disruptions affected customers in North America, Latin America, and EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa). RIM said the disruption was caused by a failure of a core switch within its infrastructure. Although the system was designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested, creating a large backlog of data that RIM had to clear.

RIM tried to placate irate customers with an apology from president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. It later said it will give away apps worth over US$100 to consumers "as an expression of appreciation for their patience during the recent service disruptions". It also offered enterprise customers one month of free support to help make up for the problems.

The right to download specific free apps does not properly compensate BlackBerry users who have paid for services that they were unable to use, according to the motion to authorize the bringing of a class action filed before the Quebec court.

The respondent has failed to take action to either directly or indirectly compensate BlackBerry users by arranging for wireless service providers to refund their customers and to take full responsibility for damages, it added.

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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