Spring Design sues Barnes & Noble

Alex infringed

SPRING DESIGN, a maker of e-readers and, more specifically, the developers of the Alex e-book reader has launched a suit against Barnes & Noble, claiming that the latter copied some of its design features.

“Spring Design unfortunately had to take the appropriate action to protect its intellectual property rights,” said Eric Kmiec, VP of Sales and Marketing at Spring Design, yesterday.

ALEX NOOK Spring Design sues Barnes & Noble

Alex (Left) and Nook (Right), dual screens, Android and more

Spring Design’s squad of crack lawyers has now taken action to protect the company’s patents. According to Spring Design, Barnes & Noble, one amongst many book stores with whom it held meetings and shared details of its device, soaked up the confidential information and used that to develop its own e-book reader.

The e-book readers seem to share a number of design features that Spring Design reckons were hijacked from the design work on the Alex and misappropriated by Barnes & Noble in the Nook. Both e-readers have dual screen designs, are based on Android 1.6 and allow for WiFi and 3G Internet browsing. The only material differences are the user interface and how information is shared between both screens.

This wouldn’t be an issue if Barnes & Noble hadn’t signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement and Spring Design hadn’t shown it the e-book design at meetings and discussed development of the device over several calls. It wasn’t until Barnes & Noble sprang the Nook that Spring Design felt it had been had.

While the argument seems to hold water, the only problem for Spring Design is that its Alex device hasn’t yet actually materialized and it is sitting on a pile of patent applications. The October 19th launch increasingly looks like a paper launch to pre-empt Barnes & Noble’s handiwork.S|A

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