Facebook, WhatsApp & Instagram Sued For Patent Infringement Over Swipe-To-Reply Messaging

On Friday in the District of Delaware, plaintiff Wrinkl, Inc. filed a complaint against defendants Facebook, Inc., WhatsApp, Inc., and Instagram, LLC for patent infringement over their alleged infringement of swipe-to-reply messaging features.

The patents-in-suit are United States Patent Nos. 9,860,198 (the ’198 Patent) and 10,728,192 (the ’192 Patent), entitled “Apparatus and Method for Message Reference Management” and “Messaging Apparatus and Method Thereof,” respectively. Wrinkl invested its resources to create its group messaging platform “Wrinkl,” which was initially released around January 2018. For example, “Wrinkl’s messaging application includes a ‘References’ feature that enables users to easily indicate which message(s), in a moving stream of many, their new message responds or refers to.” Thus, allowing users to clearly respond to a message, though the topic within the message chat may have changed.

According to the plaintiff, the patents-in-suit describe that “a user may make a selection associated with a first message which then automatically inserts a reference object into a text entry bar of a chat message system. The reference object may provide a link to automatically identify and access data from the first message. The user may then add additional text in the text message box before or after the reference object.” Additionally, “the ability to insert the reference object into the text entry box through a single click…enables information associated with a message to be easily available…by reference to another message.” Thus “the reference object may provide a link to automatically identify and access data from the first message. The user may then add additional text in the text message box before or after the reference object. When the message is sent, a display object associated with the first message is included in the newly posted second message.”

Wrinkl averred that the defendants infringed the patents-in-suit, despite their knowledge of Wrinkl’s patents. Wrinkl claimed that in October 2018 it emailed Facebook to see if the defendants were interested in a potential collaboration, whereby Facebook acknowledged receipt of the first email but allegedly did not respond to other communication. Specifically, Wrinkl proffered that the defendants infringed the patents-in-suit through their messaging applications, namely, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp Messenger and the Instagram app, in addition to possibly Facebook Workplace Chat.

Facebook Messenger purportedly infringed the patents-in-suit through a feature it allegedly introduced in March 2019, which “enabled users to generate a reply to a specific message in a chat window, which quoted and had a link to the original message, by simply swiping on the original message (hereinafter a ‘swipe-to-reply’ feature).” Moreover, Facebook Workplace Chat purportedly introduced the swipe-to-reply feature in 2018, WhatsApp allegedly introduced the infringing swipe-to-reply feature in 2017 for iOS and 2018 for Android devices, and for a select group of Instagram users, the app updated its messaging features in August 2020 to allow for swipe-to-reply messaging.

Wrinkl claimed that these messaging features infringed its patents-in-suit because of the swipe-to-reply feature, which allowed users to reply to a specific message within a message chat and for said messages to be linked. Furthermore, the plaintiff asserted that the defendants gained value, because the infringing features “received critical acclaim and became very popular.” Moreover, Wrinkl contended that through their purported infringement, the defendants “help ensure that users remain ‘locked in’ to Facebook’s platform and do not migrate to competitor platforms or messaging apps, leading to increased profits and revenues from Facebook’s broader portfolio of products and services.”

Wrinkl has sought declaratory judgment in its favor, an award for damages, an award for ongoing royalty for the alleged infringement, an award for costs and fees, and other relief.

Wrinkl is represented by Fish & Richardson P.C.