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By Suing Kik, Is RIM Poisoning Its Own Ecosystem?

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Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) has filed suit against Kik Messenger, a small company that has built a tremendously popular chat application, claiming patent infringement.

We’re still trying to get more details about the case, which was filed in Canada's Federal Court in Toronto. But our best guess is that it stems from Kik's imitation of RIM's own chat service for its Blackberry phones, called Blackberry Messenger (BBM). Kik uses the same "sent," "delivered," and "read" flags when a message is sent. RIM may be concerned because Kik does BBM one better by allowing chat across multiple smartphone platforms, including Android phones and iPhones. Kik is also blazing fast, and its adoption by 2 million users in just a few weeks threatens to outshine RIM's own service.

This all puts a nail in the coffin of Kik's chances to serve RIM's Blackberry phones, and it seriously endangers the company's chances of survival overall.

However, it's still not clear why the service hurt Blackberry per se. According to our understanding, RIM isn't suffering any loss of revenue if users adopt Kik instead of BBM. On the contrary, a fast, enjoyable chat application like Kik was one of the first apps built that worked really well on Blackberry, showcasing a great experience on the RIM platform at a time when most developers are focused more on the iPhone and Android platforms.

Evidently, RIM must feel its BBM service still has some sort of quality edge on its main rivals, and that it must fight to protect its patent to protect that lead. But by moving to protect an app within its walled garden, RIM is fighting a questionable battle, now that we're in an age where cross-platform apps are more relevant.

Here's the bigger worry for RIM: With this move, is it inadvertently poisoning its own ecosystem? If people know they can work at RIM and then start a successful startup that rides on top of the BlackBerry platform, RIM becomes a more attractive place to work, and BlackBerry becomes a more attractive platform to develop on. By making an example of Kik and its chief executive, Ted Livingston, a 23-year-old former strategist at BBM who set up shop across the street from its headquarters, RIM could be shooting itself in the foot for extremely questionable gain. Yes, RIM's always been protective of its intellectual property, but as Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone and now more recently Google with its Android platform have shown, you have to leave something on the table for innovators to seize.

Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (0)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2010, at 3:42 PM, isellwireless wrote:

    The writer has to be joking right? A patent infringement is a patent infringment. Any company in their right sense of mind HAS to protect its IPR to ensure its survival not endanger itself as the article suggests.

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2010, at 3:43 PM, powerphrase wrote:

    What you trying to do? want to make Rimm a bad company. In corporate world so many law suits, people sue each other for many different reasons, You taking a side without knowing the facts. very biased article trying to harm RIMM

  • Report this Comment On December 01, 2010, at 4:27 PM, sk8ertor wrote:

    Wow, what's wrong with this author? Does he even know the facts? How can such an article be written? RIM must defend its intellectual property. You can't have someone come and work for you and then leave and set up shop and develop the same software as you do. The author is insane for suggesting this. But, like all Fool articles, they are anti-RIM as always. They are probably the same people who short RIM and are suffering a huge losses.

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