Prompted by a court order temporarily preventing it from using the name BBX, smartphone maker Research In Motion (RIM) this week announced that it would rename its next-generation device OS to BlackBerry 10. Inexplicably, RIM had apparently never investigated whether the name BBX was owned and in use, and that brand's long-time owner, Basis International, sued to protect its trademark.
"RIM doesn't typically comment on pending litigation; however, RIM has already unveiled a new brand name for its next-generation mobile platform," RIM said in a statement. That new name is BlackBerry 10. (The current version of the company's device OS is BlackBerry 7.)
The announcement comes on the heels of a temporary restraining order issued in New Mexico, where a judge ruled that RIM cannot use the name BBX for two weeks while the court further reviews Basis International's charges.
As if RIM needed more bad news after a year of falling fortunes, its inability to perform even a cursory investigation into the BBX name is particularly embarrassing. That name has been in use by Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Basis International since 1985, is trademarked, and has been updated on a regular basis ever since. Worse, the current version of BBX is a software development tool for mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets such as the iPhone, Android, and even RIM"s BlackBerry and PlayBook devices.
You can't make this stuff up.
RIM's plans for the future have been in flux for some time. The Waterloo, Canada-based company announced its plans to buy QNX Software Systems in early 2010, and it used the company's QNX OS software as the basis for its first tablet device, the PlayBook. Originally, it wasn't clear whether the company would use QNX as the basis for its tablet and phones, but over time, RIM announced it would somehow combine QNX with its BlackBerry OS. In October, it announced that this future OS would be called BBX.
Except, of course, that now it won't be called that at all.
During this time, too, its PlayBook tablet has failed spectacularly, forcing RIM to lower prices and "reconfirm" its commitment to the tablet market in recent weeks. It hasn't helped that HP entered and then quickly exited the tablet market during this time and that even tablet devices based on the popular Android OS have foundered in the market. But RIM's worst wounds came from within: The PlayBook shipped without core and necessary productivity software at launch, and that defect has yet to be addressed. A planned major upgrade was recently delayed until next year as well.
RIM's smartphones are also sinking fast. Once the darlings of the corporate and government sets because of their perceived security advantages over other smartphone platforms, RIM's BlackBerry smartphones have fallen from their once lofty perch atop the market and are now spiraling toward oblivion. As a last-ditch effort of sorts, RIM recently announced that it would open up its secure server software to iPhone and Android device management as well. But that move can only harm sales of its BlackBerry devices.
And let's not forget the worldwide outage of RIM's wireless services in October, a drunken-rowdiness episode on a Toronto to Beijing flight involving two RIM employees who were then fired, and an investigation in Indonesia in which RIM's head of operations there is being charged with injuries to customers during a sales promotion stampede.
How do you say "Annus horribilis" in Canada?