Slack Sued for Infringement of Instant Messaging Related Patents

On Friday in the District of Colorado, Ginegar LLC filed a complaint against defendant Slack Technologies for patent infringement, alleging that the plaintiff’s workplace instant messaging platform infringes upon its intellectual property.

The patents-in-suit are United States Patent Nos. 9,367,521 (the ’521 patent) and 9,760,865 (the ’865 patent). For example, the ’521 patent, entitled, “Content and Context Based Handling of Instant Messages, allegedly “claims a method of processing instant messages.” The plaintiff stated that the “method comprises logging an instant message client into an instant message server, obtaining from the instant message server at least one handling rule that is evaluated in an instant messaging environment where each established handling rule defines a condition based upon at least one of identified content or identified context, and a corresponding event handling action which is performed within the instant message environment.”

The plaintiff contended that the Slack Communication platform is a “proprietary business communication platform that offers many features, including persistent (chat) rooms (referred to as ‘channels’) organized by topic, private groups, and direct messaging,” which “allows users to ‘make calls, share files, and even connect with other apps.’” The plaintiff averred that Slack Technologies has infringed at least claim 1 of the ’521 patent because Slack “processes received messages in instant messaging sessions and notifies the recipient if the content of a message complies to a condition set by the user.” For example, Slack notifies users about direct messages, mentions, if someone uses set keywords, replies in a thread, and reminders.

Furthermore, as described in claim 1, Slack “software connects to a messenger server in order to function.” Additionally, “(h)andling rules are stored on a message server and are obtained by downloading to the user device,” according to the plaintiff. The plaintiff noted that Slack also utilizes synchronized apps, so “(w)hatever you do on one device is reflected everywhere.” Moreover, the handling rules are “stored and synced by the Slack server. The content of received messages are evaluated” by message type, such as direct message, mentions, etc. Thus, Slack purportedly “uses each handling rule to define a condition based on at least one of identified content or context,” such as “highlight(ing) content in response to a username or specific keywords.” After which, Slack allegedly “performs a corresponding event handling action within the instant message environment,” while identifying the instant message environment the message is in, the parties involved, and if handling conditions are met. Lastly, the plaintiff added that Slack notifies users with pop-up notifications. As a result, the plaintiff claimed that Slack has utilized the patented method for its instant messaging communication technology.

The plaintiff has sought declaratory judgment in its favor; an award for damages, costs, and fees; prejudgment interest; and other relief.

The plaintiff is represented by Hilgers Graben PLLC and Bartlit Beck LLP.