BlackBerry outage prompts possible Canadian class-action suit

Research In Motion faces a possible class action lawsuit overrecent outages in its BlackBerry services earlier this month, and atrademark infringement complaint for its use of the BBX name for its upcoming platform for its tablets and smartphones.

Consumer Law Group (CLG), a Canadian law firm, said Tuesday it hasfiled in the Quebec Superior Court a proposed national class actionlawsuit against RIM on behalf of individuals whohave BlackBerry smartphones and pay for a monthly data plan, but were unable to access their email,BlackBerry Messenger service, or Internet from Oct. 11 to Oct. 14.

The lawsuitwas filed by CLG on behalf of the lead plaintiff, M. Blackette, aBlackBerry customer with a data plan from a local operator.

“The lawsuit is only dealing with the refund of people’s data plancharges during the outage. No punitive damages, nor inconvenience isbeing claimed,” said Jeff Orenstein, a CLG attorney, in an email.”Plain and simple: if you pay for a service you should receive it. Andif you don’t, you should be entitled to get your money back.”

RIM has not been served with a complaint at this time, and willformally respond to the matter in due course, the company said in astatement.

BBX name lawsuit
In a separate action in the U.S., a software company said it filed acomplaint on Monday in the United States District Court,District of New Mexico, alleging that RIM’s use of the BBX nameinfringes its trademark for its software. Basis International ofAlbuquerque, New Mexico said it had written on Oct. 19 through itscounsel to RIM, a day after RIM announced the new platform, asking itto cease all use of the BBX mark.

Basis said last week it had taken legal action to preserve and protectits “longstanding ownership” of the BBx trademarked operatingsystem-independent language, database, and toolset, but did not specifythe action.

RIM said last week it had not yet seen the legal complaint from Basis,but did not believe the marks are confusing because the two companiesare in different lines of business.

The Blackberry service disruptions affected customers in North America,Latin America, and EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa). RIMsaid the disruption was caused by a failure of a core switch within itsinfrastructure. Although the system was designed to failover to aback-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested,creating a large backlog of data that RIM had to clear.

RIM tried to placate irate customers with anapology from president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. It latersaid it will giveaway apps worth over US$100 to consumers “as an expression ofappreciation for their patience during the recent service disruptions”.It also offered enterprise customers one month of free support to helpmake up for the problems.

The right to download specific free apps does not properly compensate BlackBerry users whohave paid for services that they were unable to use, according to themotion to authorize the bringing of a class action filed before theQuebec court.

The respondent has failed to take action to either directly orindirectly compensate BlackBerry users by arranging for wirelessservice providers to refund their customers and to take fullresponsibility for damages, it added.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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