RIM Sued Over BBX, the Name of the Next BlackBerry OS

By Maria Cheung

Reviewed by Jennifer Williams 

It looks like more bad news for Research In Motion (“RIM”). After a debilitating global Blackberry outage last month, which affected users’ email and internet services, the company is now involved in a trademark lawsuit. A software company that owns a trademark to the name BBX filed a lawsuit late last month against RIM, which is using the name for its next-generation operating system for Blackberry smartphones and tablets.

The suit was filed by Basis International (“Basis”) in the US District Court of New Mexico. Basis manufactures a set of tools and languages that help developers write programs for multiple operating systems, known as BBX. Basis has used the BBX name since as early as 1985 and received a valid trademark in the name in 1995. It is interesting to note, however, that while Basis spells the trademark as BBX in its lawsuit, the company uses a lower-case “x” on its website, which states BBx refers to Business BASIC eXtended.

In the lawsuit, Basis argues that the parties’ respective BBX products are clearly related. For example, according to Basis, a software application created with BASIS’ BBX to run on the Android or iOS mobile devices could also run on RIM’s BBX for BlackBerry products. More important to the trademark dispute, Basis states it has received inquiries from confused customers after RIM announced its own BBX product in mid-October. Basis argues that customers and prospective customers are “likely to wrongly believe that software applications created using BASIS’ development tools are only compatible with RIM’s BBX operating system, thus impairing and destroying BASIS’ reputation for providing software development tools for cross-platform development.”

Basis wants an injunction to prevent RIM from using the name BBX in any capacity. Additionally, according to the lawsuit, Basis is asking for legal costs and damages to compensate it for the consumer confusion and the effects the dispute will have on the company’s profits. Basis first threatened to sue in mid-October and RIM told Reuters “we do not believe the marks are confusing, particularly since our respective companies are in different lines of business.” RIM says it chose the name BBX because the forthcoming OS will combine features of the traditional BlackBerry smartphone operating system with QNX tablet software.

If the lawsuit goes to court, a court would most likely decide in Basis’ favor if Basis can prove that RIM’s BBX products are currently causing or are likely to cause consumer confusion. I think the BBX products are clearly related as Basis’ product is a set of tools and languages that help developers write programs for multiple operating systems and RIM’s is a new Blackberry operating system. As a consumer, I would be confused and believe that RIM’s new Blackberry operating system would somehow feature Basis’s BBX product. Basis also has a valid active trademark in the name. A counter argument could be that Basis appears to spell its trademark name with a lower case x, BBx as opposed to RIM’s BBX, and this may be a large enough difference in the name not to cause consumer confusion.

It will also be interesting to watch how RIM copes with this lawsuit and if the issue will actually go to court or if the companies will simply come to an agreement, similar to how Apple negotiated with Cisco regarding its concerns over the original iPhone name. Either way, it is another distraction and setback for RIM, which has been going through a tough time lately with the outage, declining sales and market share losses. One would think that naming a next-generation OS would be the least of RIM’s problems, but that is obviously not the case here.

 

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