iPad keyboard maker Brydge denounces the apparent maker of a very similar competitor called Libra. Not only that, but Brydge also sues Kickstarter for hosting a crowdfunding campaign to support the Libra keyboard.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in a federal court in New York, accuses the company he thinks is the creator of Libra, OGadget, of violation a patent owned by Brydge. That patent relates to the most important functions that make a Brydge keyboard work: primarily a U-shaped hinge that can open and close the keyboard like a laptop when attached to something like an iPad.
"To see something as brutal as this launch on Kickstarter … frankly, it is a bit of a kick in the face of our staff that tirelessly builds up the reputation we have built up," says Nick Smith, CEO and co-founder of Brydge The edge.
Brydge wants the court to block all sales of the Libra keyboard, including the removal of the crowdfunding campaign from Kickstarter. It is also looking for punitive damages for the alleged patent violation.
Although there is a wide range of keyboard attachments for iPads, Brydge products have always been different. They mimic the style of Apple's laptops, making the iPad much like a MacBook Pro when connected. My colleague Sam Byford recently named one of Brydge & # 39; s keyboards the "best option" to get a laptop-like experience from the iPad Pro.
The Libra keyboard is very similar to a Brydge keyboard and it attaches to the iPad in a similar way, using a U-shaped clamp. Smith says that the Brydge patent, which revolves around the clamp mechanism, is the reason that many other keyboard makers use folio designs or magnetic matrices to attach to tablets. "There is no doubt that what we have is very unique," he says, "and that is why no one else does it."
In his lawsuit, Brydge contains a series of photographs that show side by side similarities between the two devices, from their hinges to their overall design. Although Smith says that Brydge also has design patents that protect his keyboards, this lawsuit only focuses on the functional elements that make the keyboard attachments work, with a heavy focus on the hinge.
However, the Libra keyboard has one major difference: it has a built-in trackpad, while Brydge has no trackpad on all iPad products. To make the two devices look more similar, the lawsuit includes photos of an unreleased Brydge keyboard prototype with a trackpad on it.
Smith says that Brydge is only a few weeks away to produce his own iPad keyboard with a built-in trackpad. Brydge hopes to start selling in January or February, although production will initially be limited to a maximum of 4,000 units. Smith says the first launch is largely a & # 39; beta & # 39; will be branded because he wants to make sure that customers understand that the functions of the trackpad are limited, because only the standard mouse functions are available in iPadOS.
"We don't want to make ourselves that great, but the iPad experience isn't great," says Smith about the mouse features added to iPadOS last month. The & # 39; beta & # 39; launch allows interested customers to use the product & # 39; knowing that iPadOS will improve & # 39 ;.
Brydge says it sent a truce letter to OGadget in mid-September and that OGadget stopped selling Libra on its website shortly thereafter. An image of the Libra keyboard is still on the OGadget site, but the link for more information about the product leads to an error page that says the website & # 39; no longer available & # 39; is.
But oddly enough, Brydge doesn't know for sure that OGadget makes the Libra keyboard. OGadget appears to be the company behind the product, but a spokesperson says that Brydge is not sure that & # 39; is. That is because the Kickstarter campaign for Libra, as well as a press release about it, are both sold under the Sentis brand. Outside of these two places, Sentis does not seem to be online – even the advertised website does not exist.
There are, however, different ties between the two brands. Sentis links to a YouTube page for "O Gadget" in the press release and links to a Facebook Messenger page for OGadget in its Kickstarter campaign. OGadget also links to the Libra Kickstarter on its Twitter and Facebook accounts. But OGadget does not claim to be the owner of the brand.
The edge reached via e-mail to OGadget and did not hear anything back. We contacted Sentis by email and on Kickstarter and have not heard anything.
That confusion is one of the major reasons why the real target of the Kickstarter trial is where Libra has gained much of its fame. The campaign, which was launched on September 24, currently has more than 1,700 donors and has raised more than $ 220,000.
"Kickstarter is very dear to us … but we had to clearly include Kickstarter in the claim to make it break down," says Smith.
Brydge started on Kickstarter, with a 2012 campaign that raised nearly $ 800,000 from more than 3,000 donors. The company has since launched dozens of products, including keyboard attachments designed for most iPads, but none have appeared on the Kickstarter since the first campaign.
According to Kickstarter, projects for patent violations are removed a copyright help page where a spokesperson has sent The edge. However, the company relies on legal findings of infringement, and Brydge may not have that until long after the Libra campaign has been completed. Suing Kickstarter immediately seems to be intended to speed up removal. The spokesperson for Kickstarter declined to comment on the trial.
Brydge is not the first company to go after Kickstarter with projects that are hosted. 3D Systems sued Kickstarter in 2012 when it claimed that a 3D printer with crowdfunded violated one of its patents. And in 2015 a patent roll sued Kickstarter for hosting a campaign for a cybersex product it claimed to infringe a patent. Neither of these cases worked for the plaintiffs: both 3D Systems and the patent roll dropped their cases.
Smith says that Brydge also focuses on Kickstarter because it is an American company, unlike OGadget, which appears to be based in China.
“What is Libra in the end? Libra is not a small business & # 39 ;, says Smith. "Libra is actually a factory in Shenzhen that copied our product and used Kickstarter to sell it. It's that simple."