patents, former employees & Kik

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Well the latest news is that RIM is suing the company over patent infringement. Presumably the patents are to do with the BBM (Blackberry Messenger) service that Kik emulated.

While I’m always a supporter of the small startups, and having been accussed of doing something similar in my entrepreneurial past. I don’t think there’s much the Kik team can do to save the situation. I spoke over the weekend to a few contacts I have at RIM, both are well placed to offer some context on their side. But beyond some background on the Kik CEO, Ted Livingston they didn’t enlighten me.

This is an example of where the entrepneurial mantra of ‘act now and beg for forgiveness’ rather than asking first can backfire. 

In this case you have the CEO who admittedly broke the privacy rules and quite possibly (as a result) their developers agreement begging for forgiveness. That might have worked, except for the fact that in his past he was an employee of RIM and privy to an insiders view of the BBM strategy. How true that is, is a very large question mark, but it is enough FUD to keep investors away and kill the company. Not to mention that Kik’s one major selling point was killing the walled garden of BBM, and that will never be turned on again. 

Livingston and his team have got to feel pretty gutted at this point. If they can pick themselves up they should retrench, do a Mea Culpa & launch the original Music sharing service as was originally planned – they may just save the company. But trying to grow the Kik messenger without the Blackberry quotient just won’t work IMO (no H there). 

There is also a bit of a lesson here for some of the younger entrepreneurs out there. Livingston is stuck between a rock and a hard place personally. He worked for RIM during  two coop’s at Waterloo and one summer. He was not a senior, or even mid-level person. But this experience has been translated by some in the media as previously worked on strategy at RIM’s Blackberry Messenger unit, but left two years ago.” RIM’s lawyers will take him to task on this if things get ugly. Even though he was working at a junior level, he probably had little to no information beyond second hand statements and product road-map discussions. That’ll be enough for them to take this beyond patents and into being personal named in lawsuits – particularly if there’s any evidence he oversold his involvement to anyone on this front. Lesson here is, be careful how you sell your previous experience and be even more careful to make sure that your previous employers have no reason to sue you. 

 

The Author

Hi. My name is Matt Roberts, you can find me at www.mattroberts.com.

3 Comments

  1. Mitch Brisebois says

    Terrific post Matt! Intellectual property infringement goes one of three ways for startups (IMO):1. You don’t succeed, they don’t notice you / don’t care2. You succeed, Cease and desist order from the big boys3. You succeed big time. Submarining. Waiting while you get big money to pay up

  2. Anonymous says

    Thanks Mitch. I’ve been involved in all 3. #1 is the worst. Spoke to an IP friend today how said "if you don’t get sued – you haven’t done anything worth talking about."

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