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BlackBerry offloads its 'legacy' patents – some of the stuff that made its phones hum

$600M sale to new owner created and funded just to handle mobile, networking, and messaging IP

BlackBerry, once a byword for the world's most ubiquitous mobile messaging devices, has decided the tech that propelled it to the top of the charts is now a non-core legacy asset and disposed of it for $600 million.

A statement from the company reveals that Catapult IP Innovations Inc. will buy BlackBerry's non-core patents, which relate primarily to mobile devices, messaging and wireless networking.

BlackBerry will trouser $450 million upon the deal closing, with the remaining cash to be paid in five instalments three years after the deal is agreed.

Not all BlackBerry IP has been sold – the company now focuses on security and has retained what it says are the "core" patents it needs to remain viable.

In the early 2000s, BlackBerry was the dominant mobile phone maker thanks to its excellent integration of email and the connectivity to ensure its delivery. The company's small-but-sturdy QWERTY keyboards also stood out at a time when rivals focussed on flip phones with numeric keypads that made sending text messages possible but left email a chore.

Rivals caught up, but BlackBerry retained a strong and loyal following. Then-senator Barack Obama was seldom parted from his BlackBerry on the campaign trail in 2007 and 2008.

But by 2009 the iPhone 3G was widely available and its on-screen keyboard did everything that was possible on a BlackBerry. The iPhone also ran apps, included a touch screen, played music, offered superior cameras … and cleaned up.

BlackBerry tried to catch up, but failed. The company eventually stopped making handsets but licensed its tech to Chinese concern TCL, which churned out passable Android handsets that did not set the world on fire.

The last of BlackBerry's own handsets exited support on January 4, 2022, marking the end of its hardware business. Now some of the IP that contributed to that hardware is gone, too.

Catapult IP Innovations is a new entity that will fund the purchase with cash from a Canadian pension fund, among other sources. The Register expects some fairly aggressive enforcement of BlackBerry's former patents will follow – an ignoble end for a company that once led the world. ®

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