Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What to do When Blackberry KIKs You to the Curb

This morning the blogosphere was abuzz with news that Blackberry had removed KIK from the Blackberry APP World store, without apparently providing any reason for doing so. It's not clear whether this is actually the case, but let's assume for the moment that it is. Can distributors like RIM lock out app vendors with impunity?

Anyone who has sold through AppWorld and read its vendor terms can tell you that (like most distribution channels) RIM has reserved for itself the right to remove products from its storefront when it sees fit. However, actually exercising that right and removing apps like KIK can raise anti-competitive issues. If I were KIK, I'd be asking my lawyers, does RIM's leveraging of its rights as a distributor to remove a possible competitive threat to Rim's own Blackberry messaging constitute an unfair trade practice?

This kind of issue has already become the subject of a wave of litigation in the US -take a look, for example, at Skyhook Wireless' September lawsuit against Google (more later on this one). Stay tuned.