Keyboard maker Brydge sues Kickstarter and Libra over iPad Pro keyboard with trackpad

What you need to know

  • iPad keyboard maker Brydge has filed a lawsuit against Kickstarter project Libra.
  • Libra is an iPad Pro Keyboard with trackpad.
  • Brydge claims Libra is a "brazen" violation of a patent owned by Brydge.

Popular keyboard maker Brydge has filed a lawsuit against both the creator of Kickstarter project Libra and Kickstarter itself, over what it describes as a "brazen" violation of a patent owned by Brydge.

In an official press release Brydge said:

Brydge has recently filed a lawsuit against Sentis, the brand behind the Libra keyboard with trackpad for the iPad Pro, and Kickstarter for facilitating the sale of the Libra keyboard. This legal action has been taken by Brydge to prevent the unauthorized use of its patented technology. Brydge is a leader in high-quality keyboards and peripherals for Apple, Google, and Microsoft. It has lead the way in innovation for the tablet keyboard category and through this innovation has built up considerable intellectual property.Brydge has built a strong reputation through its focus on innovation, unique design and high quality. We take the protection of our intellectual property very seriously and we will utilize all available avenues to protect it now and in the future." - Nick Smith, Co-CEO and Founder of Brydge

The Libra project on Kickstarter was launched on September 24, and has gained strong support from backers and widespread coverage across the media including The Verge who reviewed the device. The standout feature of Libra is the fact that it has a trackpad, enabling it to take advantage of the all-new mouse support in iPad OS.

In the lawsuit, Brydge pits Libra side-by-side with a prototype of its own codenamed 'Bilby', Brydge's own iPad Pro keyboard with a built-in trackpad. Manufacturing of that device is "weeks away" according to Nick Smith, Brydge co-founder and CEO.

Whilst Libra has some similarities to current Brydge models, when you put it side-by-side with the Bilby prototype, the two are almost a carbon copy. As The Verge notes:

The Libra keyboard looks very similar to a Brydge keyboard, and it attaches to the iPad in a similar way, using a U-shaped clamp. Smith says Brydge's patent, which revolves around the clamp mechanic, is the reason many other keyboard makers use folio designs or magnet arrays to attach to tablets. "There's no doubt what we have is very unique," ..."and that's why no one else does it." In its lawsuit, Brydge includes a series of photos showing side-by-side similarities between the two devices, from their hinges to their overall design. While Smith says Brydge also has design patents protecting its keyboards, this lawsuit only focuses on the functional elements that make the keyboard attachments work, with a heavy focus on the hinge.

Brydge hopes to begin selling its iPad keyboard with trackpad in January or February next year as a "beta" product, in part so that customers understand the limitations of the trackpad because of the rather basic nature of iPadOS' mouse support.

Brydge's keyboards for Microsoft Surface and Google Pixel Slate have incorporated a trackpad since launch (as early as January 2017) and it is no secret that Brydge has wanted to incorporate this into its iPad models. Brydge has had designs for an iPad keyboard with trackpad since 2018 and have had working prototypes of both the 11-inch and 12.9-inch versions since spring of this year. With mouse input still an accessibility feature and not mainstream in iPadOS, in the coming weeks Brydge will be announcing release plans for the Brydge Pro+ that will launch, and ship in mid Q1 2020.

One of the challenges Brydge faces is identifying who actually makes the Libra keyboard, with a spokesperson admitting Brydge is "not certain" who manufactures it. The campaing is run by a brand by the name of "Sentis", of which almost no information exists. As per the report from The Verge:

So instead, Brydge is suing OGadget, hoping that it's picked the right target. Much of Libra's promotion traces back to OGadget: Sentis links to a YouTube page for "O Gadget" in its press release, and it links to a Facebook Messenger page for OGadget on its Kickstarter campaign. OGadget also links to the Libra Kickstarter on its Twitter and Facebook accounts.But OGadget doesn't state anywhere that it owns the brand. And in an email response to The Verge that was sent after this article's initial publication, a representative of OGadget denied ownership of Sentis. OGadget is a marketing agency, the representative said, and it was hired by Sentis to promote the Libra keyboard.

Brydge had also sent a cease-and-desist letter to OGadget in September, after which it stopped selling the Libra on its own website. When contacted by The Verge, OGadget also told them that Sentis was no longer their client. Because of the confusion, Kickstarter is also named in the lawsuit. Brydge itself was a Kickstarter project in 2012.

As detailed in the legal filing against Sentis (OGadget), we feel the Libra product directly infringes our patent in both form and function and we will ensure our legal rights are fully protected."

Following news of the suit as reported by The Verge, comments in the last hour on the Kickstarter from the manufacturer gave the following statement to viewers:

Currently, we haven't received any official claims from Brydge. But we're actively communicating with Brydge regarding the recent report of the Verge. We will put our backer's benefit at the top spot. If you want to change your mind, you're always welcomed.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9