Spring Design's Alex reader seemed very similar to Barnes & Noble's Nook. I thought that Spring Design was the copycat, but based on the lawsuit they filed for violation of intellectual property, it may be the other way around.
Based on the press release, the claim is that Barnes & Noble used information, including design details, gained from meetings with Spring Design which were intended to end in a joint product. Apparently the Spring Design camp was caught just a little bit off guard when the Nook announcements started coming out:
Spring Design Files Lawsuit against Barnes & Noble : Nook Violates Alex Intellectual Property
CUPERTINO, CA - November 2, 2009 - 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.
About Spring Design: Spring Design, founded in 2006, delivers innovative e-reader solutions and products to the e-book market, offering overall "Link Notes", a content authoring and multi-media publishing tool as add on editions to original text. Spring Design is located in Cupertino, California with engineering offices in Taiwan and China. Spring Design pioneered its patent-pending dual screen design with Duet Navigator™ capability in 2006, and has been working with major book stores, newspapers and publishers over the last two years, sharing the vision and the capabilities of the dual screen device. Spring Design's innovative patented technologies incorporate the seamless interaction of dual display and multi-online access in a single device, benefiting and leveraging the technology and resources of the Web to enhance the reading experience with open Internet access.