Spring Design suing Barnes & Noble over the Nook
From the 'credit where credit is due' department...
Back on October 19th, Engadget ran a post on Spring Design's Alex device. If you haven't seen this gizmo, at first glance it looks very similar to the Barnes & Noble Nook. Anyway in the post Engadget's Thomas Ricker said:
Judging by the hastily prepared web site coincidentally appearing on the eve of the B&N device launch, and the domain's registrar, Albert Teng, who has numerous patent applications (not patents granted) covering "electronic devices having complementary dual-displays," we'd say this announcement is quite possibly a desperate attempt to lay claim to intellectual property rights instead of a real product with real manufacturers and real content partners.
And sure enough, Spring Design has now filed a trade secret lawsuit against Barnes & Noble, according to posts that sprung up overnight at CNET, VentureBeat and Engadget. In all cases, the sites in question haven't reached Barnes & Noble for comment, probably because this story broke (and by broke I mean Spring Design sent out an announcement) well after the close of business. The earliest post I've seen is CNETs which is tagged 9 pm PT.
So the timing of the news paints Spring Design in a somewhat sketchy light, but it is hard to deny the similarities of the two devices, and the Alex has been shown as a working prototype (see video embedded below). In fact one could argue that the Alex is a more interesting device in that its LCD screen does more than just act as a navigation device. One nifty feature shown in the video is the ability to 'print' a web page from the LCD window to the e-ink screen above.
Spring Design says that it worked within an NDA with Barnes & Noble since the beginning of 2009 and that "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." Now we wait to hear what Barnes & Noble has to say about all this.