The Nooks Legal Woes

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-12-12 Print this article Print


In addition to facing competition from's Kindle and other e-readers, Barnes & Noble faces the prospect of legal trouble related to the Nook.

On Nov. 2, IT startup Spring Design announced that it was filing a lawsuit against Barnes & Noble over supposed similarities between its e-reader, the Alex, and the Nook. Court records show that Spring Design filed its first amended complaint over the issue on Nov. 11, with the court conducting a hearing on Nov. 30.

"Spring Design unfortunately had to take appropriate action to protect its intellectual property rights," Eric Kmiec, Spring Design's vice president of sales and marketing, said in a Nov. 2 statement. "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 announced the Alex on Oct. 19, the day before Barnes & Noble showed off the Nook for the first time during a high-profile event in New York City. Like the Nook, the Alex runs on the Google Android operating system and features a monochrome e-ink display paired with a color touch screen. However, according to images published in court documents related to the issue, Spring Design's touch screen is larger than that of the Nook.

Although Spring Design moved to stop sales of the Nook, the San Jose Division of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California announced on Dec. 1 that Barnes & Noble will be allowed to continue selling its device during the legal proceedings.

"Based on the papers submitted to date and oral argument, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction," read the court order signed by U.S. District Judge James Ware on Dec. 1. "The Court finds that at this time there is a genuine dispute over whether the [Nook] was derived from information disclosed by Plaintiff to Defendant or was the product of earlier independent development by Defendant."

A Barnes & Noble spokesperson declined to comment to eWEEK about the litigation, citing corporate policy. The court case, though, will continue-as will the Nook's attempts to wrest some market share away from the Kindle.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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