E-Reader vs. E-Reader: Spring Design Sues Barnes & Noble

By  |  Monday, November 2, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Back on October 19th, a company called Spring Design introduced an e-reader called Alex. It had two significant features in common with Barnes &  Noble’s Nook, which was introduced a day later: Both sport a large monochrome e-ink screen and a smaller touch-sensitive color display below, and both run Google’s Android OS.

Spring Design is now saying that the similarity is too close for comfort, and that it’s suing Barnes & Noble:

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 Noble.com, 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.

I’m not a lawyer, and have no insight into the backstory here–and while I’ve played a bit with an Alex, I’ve yet to see a Nook in the flesh. So I’m not taking sides. But the two e-readers do look similar (that’s the Alex on the left):

Spring Design Alex

One way or another, I hope this is resolved quickly: The Nook is due to ship late this month, and is, for the moment, the Amazon Kindle’s most promising competitor. Spring’s press release doesn’t say whether its goal is to prevent B&N from shipping the Nook at all


Read more: , , ,

2 Comments For This Post

  1. John Says:

    It would seem then that even though Nook is cool, or cooler than Kindle, there is some danger in getting it and end up not being able to use it if things don’t go well for BN.

    Perhaps Kindle is still a more mature and proven choice, at least for now.

    I was really hoping for Nook to take off though, and still hope that’s the case. After all, the reason I hesitate to get a Kindle is due to the closed eco-system of the Kindle system, which makes Amazon the gatekeeper in that case. My understanding is that such is not the case with BN’s Nook.

    The irony is that Amazon does have an awesome MP3 store that is DRM-free with a large selection and often good prices. Yet that is a completely open format, which is preferrable.

    On the note about Amazon, I recently came across an interesting table that details the discounts on Amazon.

    It is at http://www.uberi.com

    Maybe you will find it useful too. While you are there, I would suggest checking out the “Amazon Filler Item” among other things there when you get a chance. It’s quite amusing.

  2. amazon filler Says:

    Although the Nook appears on the outside to be a superior reader to the Kindle, B&N missed a big sales opportunity by not pricing this thing at $239.
    Sometimes customers never look beyond the initial price and for $20 they could have added a whole bunch of new accounts.

    Kindle -> you can read PDFs that have foreign languages. For kindle format books – French is supported. Chinese isn’t.Foreign language dictionaries aren’t.There is a Kindle font hack that allows unicode fonts and hence foreign languages.