Barnes & Noble hit with suit over Nook

A Cupertino, Calif.-based start-up claims the bookseller misappropriated its trade secrets in its design of a similar e-reader.
Written by Ina Fried, Contributor

A Silicon Valley start-up said it sued Barnes & Noble on Friday, claiming that the bookseller misappropriated trade secrets in creating the Nook e-reader.

Cupertino, Calif-based Spring Design said it had a nondisclosure agreement with Barnes & Noble and had been discussing its e-reader plans with the bookseller since early this year.

"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 BarnesandNoble.com, discussing confidential information regarding the features, functionality and capabilities of Alex," Spring Design said in a statement. "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."

The press release from Spring Design did not say in what court the suit was filed, or mention what damages were being sought.

Spring Design announced its Alex e-reader just days before Barnes & Noble formally unveiled the Nook. Both e-readers use the Android operating system and combine an e-ink screen with a color touch screen.

Eric Kmiec, Spring Design's vice president of sales and marketing, said that the company has been working on the Alex since 2006.

"Spring Design unfortunately had to take the appropriate action to protect its intellectual property rights," Kmiec said in a 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."

A Barnes & Noble representative was not immediately available to comment.

Barnes & Noble's Nook, which competes head-on with Amazon's Kindle, is due to go on sale later this month in the United States for US$259.

This article was first published as a blog post on CNET News.

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