Barnes and Noble nook stole Spring Design secrets claims ebook lawsuit

Back in the run-up to Barnes and Noble's launch of their nook ebook reader, hitherto-unheard of Spring Design grabbed some headlines with their Alex dual-display ebook design.  At the time there was some speculation that the two devices were one and the same, though that turned out not to be the case; according to Spring Design and a lawsuit against B&N, however, the two do in fact share some design DNA.  Spring Design allege that B&N knowingly "misappropriated trade secrets and violated the parties' non-disclosure agreement" in designing the nook.

According to Spring Design, they and Barnes and Noble had been working together since the start of 2009 on bringing the Alex design to market under the B&N brand.  As part of that, Spring Design shared various features, design decisions and the like; those features, they claim, subsequently showed up in the nook, a device B&N had not revealed it had in development.

Spring Design says it holds patents on various aspects of the Alex dual-display technology that it began filing back in 2006.  If true, Barnes and Noble could face a painful financial pay-out to the company, or even an injunction on selling the nook altogether.

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Press Release:

Spring Design Files Lawsuit against Barnes & Noble : Nook Violates Alex Intellectual Property

CUPERTINO, CA – November 2, 2009 – Spring Design today filed a lawsuit to protect its Alex™ e-book intellectual property. The lawsuit asserts Barnes & Noble misappropriated trade secrets and violated the parties' non-disclosure agreement when it copied Alex' features into its recently announced Nook e-book.

"Spring Design unfortunately had to take the appropriate action to protect its intellectual property rights," said Spring Design Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Eric Kmiec. "We showed the Alex e-book design to Barnes & Noble in good faith with the intention of working together to provide a superior dual screen e-book to the market."

Spring Design first developed and began filing patents on its Alex e-book, an innovative dual screen, Android-based e-book back in 2006. Since the beginning of 2009 Spring and Barnes & Noble worked within a non-disclosure agreement, including many meetings, emails and conference calls with executives ranging up to the president of Barnes and, discussing confidential information regarding the features, functionality and capabilities of Alex. Throughout, Barnes & Noble's marketing and technical executives extolled Alex's "innovative" features, never mentioning their use of those features until the public disclosure of the Nook.

Alex, with its unique Duet Navigator™, provides the capability for interaction and navigation techniques of the two screens and furthermore utilizes the capabilities of Android to enhance the reader's experience by supporting interactive access to the Internet for references and links. As the first in the market to offer an e-book with full Internet browsing while reading and with easy navigational control via its touch screen, Alex is well-positioned to offer the most dynamic and powerful reading device in the market.

Spring Design is focused at working strategically with book store partners to jointly develop the market and revolutionize e-book with interactive multi-media open Internet access. "It is our desire to resolve this matter so that we can move forward together to expand and grow this e-book market with enriched user experience, bringing readers to a new level of reading enjoyment," said Eric Kmiec.

About Spring Design:

Spring Design, founded in 2006, delivers innovative e-reader solutions and products to the e-book market, offering overall "Link Notes", a content authoring and multi-media publishing tool as add on editions to original text. Spring Design is located in Cupertino, California with engineering offices in Taiwan and China. Spring Design pioneered its patent-pending dual screen design with Duet Navigator™ capability in 2006, and has been working with major book stores, newspapers and publishers over the last two years, sharing the vision and the capabilities of the dual screen device. Spring Design's innovative patented technologies incorporate the seamless interaction of dual display and multi-online access in a single device, benefiting and leveraging the technology and resources of the Web to enhance the reading experience with open Internet access.