01/06/2014 13:27 EST | Updated 03/08/2014 05:59 EST

Typo keyboard maker scoffs at BlackBerry patent lawsuit

The technology startup being sued by BlackBerry for allegedly infringing on the Canadian smartphone maker's keyboard design says the legal action "lacks merit" and it will vigorously defend itself against the claim.

On Friday, Waterloo-Ont.-based BlackBerry sued Typo Products LLC for infringing on its patents in the startup's signature product — a cellphone case that attaches to an iPhone to give it a physical keyboard.

Typo was founded by entrepreneur Laurence Hallier, and American TV host and media personality Ryan Seacrest. And the company's signature product, the Typo Keyboard, is set to go on sale later this month.

The device attaches around the outside of an Apple iPhone like a protective case, but gives the phone a physical keyboard.

"This is a blatant infringement against BlackBerry's iconic keyboard, and we will vigorously protect our intellectual property against any company that attempts to copy our unique design," BlackBerry chief legal officer Steve Zipperstein said Friday. "We are flattered by the desire to graft our keyboard onto other smartphones, but we will not tolerate such activity without fair compensation for using our intellectual property and our technological innovations."

On Monday, Typo responded to the allegations, saying in a press release "although we respect Blackberry and its intellectual property, we believe that Blackberry's claims against Typo lack merit and we intend to defend the case vigorously."

"We are excited about our innovative keyboard design, which is the culmination of years of development and research," Typo said.

For years, one of BlackBerry's key differentiators for its smartphones was the ability to have a physical keyboard, which is perceived by some heavy users in the business community to be preferable for writing a lot of text, such as in an email. 

BlackBerry has moved toward touchscreen models in its new phones but does still offer its signature physical keyboard on some of its devices.