Could BlackBerry be next on Apple’s hit list?

BlackBerry 10 front.jpgWhen it comes to technology rivalry, there is none so great as that between Apple and Samsung. But, could the Californian gizmo maker now be about to turn its attentions to BlackBerry after the Canadian company released a smartphone with strikingly similar looks to the iPhone.

Speculation that BlackBerry, which changed its name from Research In Motion at the same time it launched its two new handsets, is about to face legal action from Apple is hotting up after an interview Radio 5 carried out with the BlackBerry Europe managing director Stephen Bates.

During the radio chat, Bates refused to admit the new Z10 bore any similarity to the iPhone. He was asked six times “What have you learnt from Apple?” but, each time, he refused to answer the question before his frustrated interviewer eventually gave up, saying “you’re clearly not answering”.

Bates simply retaliated with BlackBerry’s history in the smartphone market, saying: “BlackBerry was one of the inventors of the smartphone market.”

And Stuart Miles from Pocket-Lint website argued that the BlackBerry 10 was actually an amalgamation of “lots of different systems”, not just Apple’s iOS. “The lock screen is similar to Windows phone,” he said, “the app grid is similar to iPhone, the app page is similar to Android. I don’t think people will get confused – apart from the fact they look rectangular.”

But despite Bates remaining tight-lipped on whether the iPhone had proved an inspiration, many analysts say Apple could be getting ready to sue, although opinion is split on how successful any court action would be.

The Tech2 blog said Apple could sue if BlackBerry started enjoying success and taking market share away from the American technology giant. “Apple 31J_iphone v New Blackburry page3seemed ready to litigate at the drop of a hat when Steve Jobs was around,” said the site. “Under Tim Cook, however, Apple seemed to have adopted a more benign approach.

“Having said that, this would possibly last only as long as BlackBerry doesn’t gain any market share at Apple’s expense. The minute the numbers start shifting, Apple’s phalanx of lawyers may start itching to have a go at them.”

It certainly didn’t take long for the comparisons with iPhone to start flooding tech and news sites after the launch of the BB10 operating system.  Comments from Twitter users included “ripoff” and “carbon copy”.

But experts said even if Apple did decide to go ahead with court action, previous battles with Samsung showed it would not be successful.

Vicki Salmon, who is a patent attorney at IP Asset, said she wasn’t convinced Apple would go after BlackBerry, given what is already on the market. She added: “If it’s on the shape of the phone, the dimensions are different, the degree of roundedness is different – I don’t believe there is a case.

“I also don’t think the similarity of the grid would be enforceable – we’ve been lining out apps on a screen forever. If you’re looking at rounded corners on a device, you are looking at if there is a design right, and that has happened with Samsung in relation to tablets – and Apple lost.”

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