WhatsApp is patented

Provisional ban on Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp in Germany

The Facebook apps in Germany are temporarily banned. The Facebook app, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and Whatsapp are affected.

The reason does not lie in data protection law, but in patent law:

The Munich Regional Court ruled that the apps infringe various Blackberry patents. Among other things, it is about friend suggestions and sending chats. The judgment is not yet final, but Blackberry could provisionally enforce it. In this case, Facebook should no longer offer the apps in their current form.

The S├╝ddeutsche Zeitung quotes the court as follows:

As a result of the judgments, the offering and delivery of the aforementioned applications in the FRG for use in the FRG is in fact prohibited insofar as they use the patents in question.

Among other things, Facebook stated that they would adapt the apps if necessary:

We will continue to be able to make all of our apps available in Germany. The legal proceedings affect a few specific functions of our apps. We already have software updates available for these functions in order to meet the requirements of the injunction requirement, if Blackberry decides to enforce this.


We have challenged the validity of the Blackberry patents on which the injunction is based and are waiting for the decision of the Federal Patent Court.

For younger readers:

Blackberry had shaped the market from 1999 with smartphones that had a physical (!) Keyboard. The devices were optimized for business email and calendar use. "Blackberrys" were - wrongly - considered to be particularly secure and were at times a status symbol for business users. The success story, at that time still under the Research in Motion (RIM) company, ended with the iPhone and its touch controls, which became popular for smartphones.

Blackberry defends itself against accusations of being a patent troll

Blackberry denies being little more than a 'patent troll' - a company that tries dubiously to make money from patent lawsuits instead of serious deals. The allegation is that Blackberry hopes to force other companies through the legal proceedings to conclude expensive license deals with him in order to be able to continue using the software as before. Because what Blackberry would have from switching off the chat function in Instagram, for example, is unclear.

Users in Germany can continue to use the Facebook apps as long as they are offered by Facebook. The ruling has no direct impact on Switzerland. It is unclear whether instant messaging apps such as Signal, Telegram, Threema or Wire could also be affected.

This post first appeared on steigerlegal.ch

Whatsapp, Facebook and other online service providers seem to be struggling with the EU GDPR. The University of G├Âttingen checked 35 of these service providers and found many to be inadequate when it comes to handling sensitive data. Find out more here.