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):
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