Vancouver tech company receives big win in patent lawsuit against Snap Inc.

Albert Van Santvoort - Business In Vancouver


Vancouver-based tech company iFramed Canada received a big win in its patent infringement case against the creators of Snapchat, Snap Inc., after receiving approval for its U.S. patent.

I think it’s a big step forward,” said Lawry Trevor-Deutsch, senior vice-president of corporate affairs for UnitedCorp, iFramed’s parent company. “This is a game changer for us.”

It has been just over a year since the parent company of iFramed Canada Inc. sued social media giant Snap Inc. over allegations of patent infringement.

Trevor-Deutsch is optimistic about the future and said a U.S. parent lends a greater legitimacy to the case. Some people in the United States are dismissive of Canada and the Canadian market in general, said Trevor-Deutsch. Receiving approval for a U.S. patent eliminates any jurisdictional concerns.

The arguments presented in the Canadian patent process aided iFramed’s ability to be approved in the U.S. During the Canadian patent approval process, Snap Inc. tried to argue that iFramed’s patent wasn’t valid because of a pre-existing patent. The Canadian patent office disagreed with Snap’s Inc.’s claim that the patent was invalid. The U.S. patent office later agreed with the Canadian patent office’s decision and granted iFramed the patent.

The former parent company of iFramed Canada, Vancouver based Investel Capital Corp., launched the lawsuit in August 2016. Roughly a year later, at the end of June, iFramed was purchased by Miami based UnitedCorp, which acquired the company for 50 million shares at an average, price of US$0.10.

iFramed is an app that allows users to take videos and pictures and then overlay external content including animated filters and still advertisements based on their location.

UnitedCorp and iFramed Canada maintain that this patented technology is the basis for Snapchat’s popular Geofilters, the main tool Snap Inc. uses to monetize their app.

UnitedCorp currently holds the Canadian patent for iFramed which was issued in June of last year. The company also has patents pending in China, India, Australia, Europe and Japan.

UnitedCorp says that they were working on a “good faith basis” with Snap Inc. since they launched the suit last year. While the two companies were in talks they have seemingly gone silent.

“Unfortunately, Snap has ceased to engage in discussions with us,” said Benoit Laliberte, UnitedCorp’s president, in a press release. “Instead [Snap] has elected to rely on legal delay tactics in the Canadian proceedings.”

Trevor-Deutsch is hopeful that receiving approval for the U.S. patent will encourage Snap to come back to the table, but is ultimately unsure of what their response will be.

“Sometimes companies just choose to litigate rather than discuss,” said Trevor-Deutsch. “I don’t know what there strategy is.”

While Trevor-Deutsch is hopeful that the patent approval will bring Snap back to discussions, he wouldn’t comment on what UnitedCorp’s ultimate strategy will be if they do.

The two most obvious options are to license the technology to Snap for use in its app or to try and launch its own app to compete against Snapchat but the ultimate outcome will depend on future negotiations.