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RIM acquires TAT, sues Kik

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion seems to be serious about making the user interfaces for its BlackBerry phones and forthcoming PlayBook tablet on par with anything else in the industry: RIM has just announced that it has acquired the Swedish interface design firm TAT. TAT stands for “The Astonishing Tribe,” and the company has garnered fame for its work in the mobile phone and automotive industries: TAT is the company that spruced up the original T-Mobile G1 Android interface, and the company claims that its Cascades XML UI framework is already deployed on nearly 500 million devices worldwide, including “more than 20 percent of all touch phones shipped in 2010.”

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Neither RIM nor TAT have disclosed what RIM will do with the company once the acquisition is complete. It’s reasonable to assume that, like the QIK framework RIM acquired and is using as the basis for its PlayBook, RIM will maintain at least some of TAT’s existing businesses, while at the same time integrating TAT’s technology and expertise into RIM products.

On a separate note, Research in Motion has also launched a patent infringement suit against Kik Interactive, a Canadian startup founded by a former RIM employee. At issue is Kik Messenger, an instant messaging application that works much like RIM’s own BlackBerry Messenger (enabling users to see when a message has been sent, received, read, and replied to), but which works with iPhones and Android devices as well as RIM’s own BlackBerry phones.

Rim alleges that Kik’s developer (founder and CEO) Ted Livington used knowledge obtained when he was working on BlackBerry Messenger development to create Kik Messenger. RIM is seeking an injunction barring the distribution of Kik Messenger, a declaration that three RIM patents had been infringed, and unspecified monetary damages.

“I’m not afraid. I’m not surprised. But I am disappointed,” Livington wrote in the company blog. Livington says that he shared Kik’s plans with RIM “every step of the way,” and noted RIM had no trouble placing Kik Messenger in BlackBerry App World.

BlackBerry devices have long been popular in enterprise and government, but BlackBerry Messenger was one of the few features of the BlackBerry platform that appealed to younger and international smartphone users.