2b399957b7610fa959331f8f33f993bbBack towards the end of October, we broke the news that Sprint Design will release an Android based product called ‘Alex’, an e-Book reader with two displays, one for E Ink standard reading and another for multimedia in full color. A day later, Barnes & Noble dropped a bomb shell and announced the news that they too were releasing an e-Book reader by the name of ‘Nook’ and this two would have a similar design, including two screens (one E Ink and one a full color touch-screen). At the time it seemed a little fishy that two such similar devices should launch at the same time, and apparently there was good reason for it.

Spring Design are suing Barnes & Noble on the grounds that the “Nook” violates “Alex’s” Intellectual Property and Spring Design feel that “Barnes & Noble misappropriated trade secrets and violated the parties’ non-disclosure agreement when it copied Alex’ features into its recently announced Nook e-book.” Press release and closing comments after the break.

CUPERTINO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–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 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.

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.

I have to say, without knowing the details of what was said in the meetings between the two companies, it is hard to call. But time and time again you read of the stories of the small company bullied by the big company and when it comes to lawsuits, the smaller company often stands no chance.

James Tromans
Contributing editor of AndroidAuthority.com, based in the U.K.