After filling the shoes of everyone from Dick Clark to Casey Kasem throughout his decade-long career as an entertainment mogul, Ryan Seacrest decided to set his eyes on a new prize: technological innovation.
You’ve seen him on your favorite reality and variety shows, enjoyed (or not) the many others that he produces, and hear him on the radio every week. Now he wants to help with your texting and internet on the go needs.
Seacrest backed and co-founded the Typo, a Bluetooth accessory that complements Steve Jobs’ world-changing iPhone. However, Seacrest’s new career endeavor hit an uncharacteristic snag when the Typo faced a roadblock in its journey onto store shelves: a recent federal sales injunction.
In a move that mirrors its creator’s show-business background, the Typo made its debut early this year in Las Vegas, at the iconic annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). But before the show even started, BlackBerry recognized the Typo’s resemblance to its own trademark keyboard — which is also a physical component at the bottom of a long, slim smartphone — and filed a patent lawsuit. In response to that ongoing case, Judge William Orrick issued an injunction that bans Seacrest and his business partner, Laurence Hallier, from selling their invention.
The Typo is an accessory produced by Seacrest and Hallier’s Typo Productions. It’s essentially a snap-on iPhone case, but the controversial twist is the panel of keys on its lower half. While the iPhone keyboard is integrated into its touch-screen technology, BlackBerry paved the way for mobile typing technology years earlier with their all-purpose personal planners that physically merged both screen and keyboard.
You can’t help knowing the rest of the story: as Apple took off, BlackBerry faltered, and the vast majority of smartphone users have opted for total touch-screen technology.
However, Seacrest recognized a need for the best of both worlds. In fact, in true multi-tasking, project-juggling fashion, he and his friends landed on the idea after realizing they carried different phones to meet different needs. While iPhones came in handy for the majority of the smartphone functions they needed — universally used apps, voice-recognition commands, high-definition cameras and Skype or Face Time for video conference calls, to name just a few — they were lacking in one area: typing. That’s why they carried a second phone, which allowed them to keep up with correspondence and note-taking in a way that felt organic and didn’t take up too much unnecessary time.
While Typo Productions never identify that second phone on their official website, BlackBerry executives have a pretty good idea. The Typo consists of two thin, plastic halves than snap into one piece on the back of the iPhone and form a very thin frame around its front, all of which is designed to support the 3/4″-inch keyboard panel. The product gets its name from the company’s intended purpose: to eliminate the typos and other inconvenient errors caused by slipping fingers and hard-to-use devices.
When Blackberry filed the lawsuit on January 3, they accused Typo Productions of “blatantly” ripping off BlackBerry’s keyboard design while wryly acknowledging how flattering it was that people were attempting to “graft” their keyboard onto their competitor’s much more popular creation. Because the Typo’s creation story already reads like that’s exactly what they did, it might be difficult for Seacrest and friends to explain themselves this time around.
The United States legal system obviously agrees, and Seacrest will have to hold off on the prematurely-announced pre-sale until they can resolve their legal issues with Apple’s rival. You have to commend BlackBerry for refusing to go down without a fight; as the company continues to reinvent and redesign its once-beloved products for a changed market, they aren’t about to let go of the one component that already makes them better than the industry leaders.