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Spring Design Sues Barnes & Noble Over Nook IP

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the first-out-the-gate dept.

Books 186

bth writes to let us know that Barnes & Noble has been sued by a company called Spring Design, which alleges that the recently announced Nook e-book reader infringes its intellectual property. This isn't a patent troll kind of situation; rather, the claim is misappropriation of trade secrets. Spring Design claims that they have been developing a dual-screen, Android-based e-book reader since 2006, filing patents all the while; and that they showed pretty much everything to Barnes & Noble in the expectation of working together with them to bring their reader to market.

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186 comments

First (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967854)

First Post!!

Re:First (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967872)

First reply to the first post! W00t

I'm shocked! (5, Insightful)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967902)

I'm shocked I tell you! Huge company with an armada of lawyers steals everything from a startup. Next thing you know the execs at B&N will be rewarded for their cleverness.

It's never happened before.

Re:I'm shocked! (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968046)

Just because it's happened before doesn't mean it shouldn't be newsworthy. These companies need to be exposed for what they are doing as much as possible just like governments should be.

Re:I'm shocked! (2, Insightful)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968064)

Wait for the inevitable horde to tell us that its patents that are evil and that they only encourage stealing.

Re:I'm shocked! (0)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968566)

Both patents AND lawyers are evil and only encourage stealing.

Re:I'm shocked! (4, Insightful)

avilliers (1158273) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968080)

I'm shocked I tell you! Huge company with an armada of lawyers steals everything from a startup. Next thing you know the execs at B&N will be rewarded for their cleverness.

It's never happened before.

Indeed.

Also, never before in the history of corporate America, has a small company make a predictable copy of product and then sued a bigger competitor for it's equally predictable product. This is all thoroughly uncharted territory. ;)

Absent a lot more information, there's really no way to figure if B&N is remotely guilty of anything at all. Talks about licensing do *not* prevent you from working on a similar product yourself; the practice is routine. If your internal project fails or is delayed, you want a backup--that doesn't commit you to buying or licensing before you've signed a deal. And Slashdot, of all places, should be sceptical of claims that a company "deserves" some space in the IP world just for itself because they thought about something similar.

Re:I'm shocked! (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968238)

Apparently they're already guilty, in your mind?

Re:I'm shocked! (1, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968506)

They obviously are, by definition, because they're like totally a corpra$hun aw something. OK, the plaintiffs probably are too. But like, whatever.

See, remember how it was with music when you were 15? The less famous group is obviously bettahr, anybody that more than twenty people have heard of has $old out for teh dollor$$zeleventyone.

Re:I'm shocked! (1, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968606)

See, remember how it was with music when you were 15? The less famous group is obviously bettahr

I listened to classical music, mostly baroque and romantic... so no, I don't remember how it was. I was always a rather strange minority when it came to music. ;)

Re:I'm shocked! (5, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968806)

Yeah but Karchofaniz totally pwned Beethoven and all the Bachs. As for Mozart, beh - too many notes.

Re:I'm shocked! (2, Funny)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29969192)

I like how my previous post was overrated, hehe..

I can't tell if you're joking - I have no idea what or who "Karchofaniz" is... :P

Re:I'm shocked! (3, Informative)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968254)

Huge company with an armada of lawyers steals everything from a startup.

What did they steal? Ideas? Give me a break. Does "An android based E-book reader" constitute a patent worthy idea? Actually, of course it does, and that's why I for one do not see the benefit in supporting such startups in cases like these.

This company is a patent troll. What did they invent? A button that makes text scroll smoothly? A pop up or context sensitive interface? Oh! They invented a two screen device where you control things by moving a stylus on the bottom screen! Perhaps supplemented by additional buttons! How Original!! [nintendo.com] Yes, indeed, all companies implementing any such mechanism on any e-book whatsoever should have to pay these brilliant engineers for their hard worn innovation. /end scarcasm.

The only people who support this company are those who believe that being the first to develop something, or being the first to spew out any old brain fart, entitles you to exclusive ownership and control over all future implementations and revenues involving that thing. It the proverbial American Dream; Winning the lottery through one crazy scheme. Everybody has one in the back of their head, and so the system stands with popular support. I for one utterly reject this model as a basis for technological development and progression.

Patents need to die. Completely. If you can't stand on your own two feet like startups in every other industry, then you shouldn't be in business. Holding the world back until you get your protection money is a despicable practice, no matter how big or how small you are.

Re:I'm shocked! (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968304)

Yeah really, the only thing I see wrong in this case is that B&N was working with them, but if the company didn't want B&N to steal their idea, they should've signed a contract to that effect.

Re:I'm shocked! (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968514)

Yeah really, the only thing I see wrong in this case is that B&N was working with them, but if the company didn't want B&N to steal their idea, they should've signed a contract to that effect.

They were working with B&N since the beginning of this year. If their case is legitimate, than B&N managed to work up a competing device in just a few months.

Which I find extremely unlikely. I expect that this is just a case of parallel development.

Re:I'm shocked! (3, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968548)

if the company didn't want B&N to steal their idea,

Ideas per se are neither patentable (inventions using them or implementations of them are) nor copyrightable (expressions of them are).

Re:I'm shocked! (3, Interesting)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968692)

Yes but if you want to share ideas with someone and not have them beat you to market, you can make them sign a contract saying they won't make the same device for some amount of time. In this case, they should have done that, but they didn't, so I see nothing wrong with B&N making a similar product.

It's bogus. They don't even have a patent. (2, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29969124)

Following the links FTFA to the original story:

As the first in the market to offer an e-book with full Internet browsing while reading

Nope. Any small laptop with an ebook reader got there first.

Spring Design pioneered its patent-pending dual screen design with Duet Navigator(TM) capability in 2006

There's a huge difference between "patent-pending" and "we actually have an enforceable patent."

Re:It's bogus. They don't even have a patent. (1)

JordanL (886154) | more than 4 years ago | (#29969726)

Actually there isn't. In the US, you can sue for a patent that has not been approved, get a judgment, and the other party can have the judgment vacated if the patent is shown to be unenforceable after the fact.

Canada has a similar system for patents, and Research in Motion found out. They were required to pay out a $700 million judgment on a patent that was found to unenforceable after the fact for technology in the BlackBerry. In that case, RIM was fined even after the fact that the patent had been rejected.

Similarly, you can sue for trademark infringement before you are actually granted your trademark if you have already begun the process.

Re:I'm shocked! (1)

Zordak (123132) | more than 4 years ago | (#29969418)

And yet if this were a patent case instead of a trade secret case, this page would be swarming with comments decrying the corrupt and broken patent system, without so much as a cursory glance at the claims.

Huh... (2, Informative)

davcorp (465418) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967918)

This is unbelievable.... how can a Company as reputable as Barnes and Noble do something this heinous...

What next, a fledgling songwriter will have his lyrics "borrowed" by the next great rap star....

When in Rome, carry a big stick or a rabid Lawyer! :)

Alternative - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967944)

When in Rome, carry a big stick or a rabid Lawyer! :)

Actually I advocate nuking Rome from orbit; that's the only way to be sure.

Re:Alternative - (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968580)

Good advice. Try nuking it from any closer and the fuckers will probably steal your bomb before you manage to drop it.

The Alex (What B&N ripped off) (4, Informative)

x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967952)

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.

This thing looks awesome. Good for Spring Design in protecting it's IP. One of my biggest complaints with the Kindle is Amazon's insistence that it be locked down and only do what Amazon wants it to do. The Alex uses Android and sounds like it's a sweet device that might be hackable and could be turned into a really really useful tool.

Here's hoping that Spring Design really are the good guys in this.

Re:The Alex (What B&N ripped off) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29968110)

If you dont like how the kindle is locked down, why don't you replace the bookreading app? It runs linux, I'm sure you can hack up a new one.

Oh, right... Too much effort.

Re:The Alex (What B&N ripped off) (2, Insightful)

hardburn (141468) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968392)

Or, you know, buy a competitor's product instead that already does what you want and save yourself the time.

Re:The Alex (What B&N ripped off) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29969582)

if you dont like the way your car drives why dont you take a welding torch and hack up another ?

Oh, right. youre an idiot.

Re:The Alex (What B&N ripped off) (2, Interesting)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968336)

One of my biggest complaints with the Kindle is Amazon's insistence that it be locked down and only do what Amazon wants it to do.

You mean the inability to load your own text, html, or several other file formats? Oh wait, it already does all that.

Or are you talking about loading your own operating system into it? I hope you put the same restrictions on your TV, Microwave oven, refrigerator, washing machine, etc.. It's built to be an appliance, not a laptop. The hardware is designed for long battery life, not the ability to be a PC. The selection of programs are designed to sleep most of the time, which gives it the necessary battery life. If you want a PC, buy a PC. Why must everything be designed to be a PC? Shouldn't you also insist that your vacuum cleaner be user programmable or you will refuse to buy it?

Re:The Alex (What B&N ripped off) (3, Funny)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968596)

Shouldn't you also insist that your vacuum cleaner be user programmable or you will refuse to buy it?

I dunno, imagine the suction a vacuum cleaner would have if it was multi-booting Vista, Windows ME, and MS-DOS 4.

Re:The Alex (What B&N ripped off) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29969820)

you sir, won an internet

Re:The Alex (What B&N ripped off) (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968604)

I'm talking about how Amazon can force it to delete whatever they want from YOUR kindle. It means that you are not the absolute overlord of your own hardware, Amazon is, a fact that I find unacceptable.

Re:The Alex (What B&N ripped off) (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968848)

For the past couple years, I have put the same restrictions on my TV.

The thing is, I don't want a PC. I want something with long battery life that can run console Emacs, so I can take it out to a cabin with no electricity and write for weeks at a time. (Text not code.) There's no reason this device shouldn't satisfy that, the hardware has all the capabilities.

It does however make sense that it's something I would have to roll myself. I need that freedom if I'm putting money into this sort of thing.

Re:The Alex (What B&N ripped off) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29969696)

Shouldn't you also insist that your vacuum cleaner be user programmable or you will refuse to buy it?

Maybe s/he does [irobot.com]

Finally! (0, Redundant)

Serenissima (1210562) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967960)

A good use of the patent system!

Patents (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967962)

If they've been filling patents all this time, shouldn't that protect them?

Oh, right. This is in the U.S.A., where money equals justice.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29968616)

Sorry, this is real life, not a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. A patent is not a magical spell that prevents others from taking an action, even if it against the law. It's like laws against murder, that doesn't seem to stop people from doing that. The patent allows your the right to attempt redress, that's it.

Re:Patents (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968670)

If B&N implemented any of those patents, and if they've raised patent claims (TFS is unclear on these points), then yes, it should protect them.

And maybe it will. At this stage of the game, the headline for Spring trying to enforce its patents would read "Spring Design Sues Barnes & Noble Over Nook IP"... and look at that, the headline says just such a thing.

So you're either asking why they aren't doing exactly what they're doing, or your prematurely assuming that it will not work when nothing in TFS or TFA would lead to that conclusion.

I guess the moderators thing "bashes the U.S. legal system" is the definition of Insightful today.

Re:Patents (1)

Jeian (409916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29970106)

Having laws against this sort of thing doesn't mean that it won't ever happen, it means that the victims have legal recourse if it does. Working as intended, unless they somehow lose the court battle.

B&N are completely innocent (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967974)

The Spring Design device was going to be called a "Nok" so there was no way anyone could confuse the two products and any similarities in design are pure coincidence.

"Don't be evil" UALA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967984)

If they're using Android isn't, "Don't be evil" in the license agreement?

I'm so angry, I may never read another book (that's not displayed on a full size LCD monitor) again

Finally, a use for the patent system. (2, Interesting)

TravisHein (981987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968000)

Usually the patent system is abused by those patent foundry companies turn out patents as their 'business model' to later troll up the real companies that do the innovation. It's good to finally see a story where a legitimate company that is trying to innovate a real product, might finally be able to use their patents to get a foot hold against what would otherwise be an impossible battle against a huge company.

Re:Finally, a use for the patent system. (2, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968270)

Usually the patent system is abused by those patent foundry companies turn out patents as their 'business model' to later troll up the real companies that do the innovation. It's good to finally see a story where a legitimate company that is trying to innovate a real product, might finally be able to use their patents to get a foot hold against what would otherwise be an impossible battle against a huge company.

Patent trolls make the headlines on slashdot, but the vast majority of patent actions are like this one.

Re:Finally, a use for the patent system. (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968960)

I'm not sure it's the "vast majority". Statistics seem to vary, but I've seen about 60-75% quoted for the proportion of patent cases filed by practicing entities, with 25-40% being from patent holding companies. And out of those filed by practicing entities, only a smallish proportion are like this one, a small company using the patent system to protect itself against a large corporation. A huge proportion of patent suits are trench wars between large companies, often used as a negotiating tactic. A decent proportion are large companies using huge patent portfolios to stifle innovation by keeping out new entrants (e.g. how Intel protects its x86 fiefdom). The average patent litigant spends $4-5 million in legal costs, which itself is an indication that the majority of patent litigants are large, well-funded corporations.

Re:Finally, a use for the patent system. (2, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968396)

I tend to agree but then I have not seen the patents yet. Hardware patents I feel are fine for the most part. It is stupid software patents that get to me.
The question is what did they patent. I mean is a two screen device going to be patentable? Couldn't you claim the Nintendo DS as prior art since people have used it as a book reader?
As I said I have not read the patents so I am not sure where I stand on this but yes it could be a good use for patent law.

Re:Finally, a use for the patent system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29969110)

Hardware patents I feel are fine for the most part. It is stupid software patents that get to me.

That's retarded. In today's digital world, there is little difference between hardware and software. Both use C (Verilog) or Pascal/Ada (VHDL) type languages to develop the product. The only difference is hardware gets compiled into silicon while software gets compiled into 1s and 0s on a disk. Given such similarity, are hardware engineers ideas genius while software engineers' ideas ordinary?

Re:Finally, a use for the patent system. (1)

KnightElite (532586) | more than 4 years ago | (#29970280)

As someone who writes Verilog for a living, I would have to say yes!

order of things... (1)

uncanny (954868) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968016)

they have been developing a dual-screen, Android-based e-book reader since 2006, filing patents all the while; and that they showed pretty much everything to Barnes & Noble in the expectation of working together with them

Perhaps you should have gotten a deal, then shown them all your secrets!

Re:order of things... (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968114)

Perhaps they did; I don't see where TFA says either way.

I'm not too familiar with trade secret law. My understanding is that you have to try to protect a trade secret for it to remain protected; so if they didn't get an agreement first, I'd have to guess they'd be out of luck.

I'm a little confused, in that TFS says (1) that this is a trade secret issue, but (2) that there are patents in place. I suppose that could mean that B&N avoided implementing the patents but still copied elements of the original design that were not patented?

Re:order of things... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968840)

Trade secret ceases to exist the moment you show it to someone.

You can sue for patent infringement, but putting two screens on one device can hardly be patentable. Remember the Razr and about 400 other devices?

Once you tell a secret unprotected by a NDA, you have lost.

Re:order of things... (3, Insightful)

TaggartAleslayer (840739) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968158)

It's sometimes extremely hard to get a large corporation to look at your prototypes, much less sign an NDA before you walk through the door. Be it computer software, hardware, or the new mousetrap, being the little guy trying to find a mega-distributor sometimes comes with unanticipated risks.
 
You have to be careful not to fall into the trap of blaming the victim. Sometimes you make a showing on good faith, and by the time you realize the empty promises of a partnership are just that, you've already shown too much.

Re:order of things... (5, Insightful)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968916)

There's several possible scenarios here.

Spring: We've got this neat thing you want to see. Sign this NDA!
B&N: We're working on something similar, but we'd like to see yours to see if we can work together (signs)
Spring: We've got a signed NDA that covers something you're going to be producing. See you in court, suckers!

Spring: We've got this neat thing you want to see. Sign this NDA!
B&N: We're working on something similar, and we'd like to see yours to see if we can work together, but since we've got a project going we won't sign the NDA.
Spring: Well, okay. This is what we've got so far.
B&N: Ha ha! Now we've got your secrets.
Spring: That's our work that you're going to be using.
B&N: So sue us!

Spring: We've got this neat thing you want to see. Sign this NDA!
B&N: We're working on something similar, but we'd like to see yours to see if we can work together (signs)
Spring: Now that we've got the NDA, here's what we've got so far.
B&N: Ha ha! Now we've got your secrets, and since we have this research project going we can lie about where we got our ideas!
Spring: We'll sue!

All of these are plausible; it's also possible that it's a genuine misunderstanding, and Spring had reason to think B&N took things that they'd actually come up with independently.

I'm not blaming anybody without more information.

Re:order of things... (1)

hamisht (197412) | more than 4 years ago | (#29969738)

I'm not blaming anybody without more information.

you're obviously new here

History repeats itself.. sort of (3, Insightful)

mrdoogee (1179081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968256)

Xerox PARC: So we invented this really handy user input device, want to see?

Apple: Sure!

Xerox: Promise you'll license it from us?

Apple: Of course!

Always always always get the NDA's and License Agreements signed before you show the goods off.

Re:History repeats itself.. sort of (1)

PayPaI (733999) | more than 4 years ago | (#29970406)

Yeah, PARC really got swindled with that worthless Apple stock they got.

In good faith (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29968022)

TFA says the company showed them the work they had done "In good faith".... what a bunch of dumb shits. Unless there are some binding contracts involved I think the folks making the Alex are scr3wed....

Re:In good faith (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968088)

They most likely had NDAs set up.

Re:In good faith (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968380)

B&N may have taken a look at the market, said "Android-based, two screens... they're everywhere! Fuck this NDA, it'll never stand." And they were probably right.

Re:In good faith (2, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968890)

The press release (not quoted by TFA) mentions an NDA:

http://egether.com/release/52/ [egether.com]

But its not clear if it was sufficiently restrictive to prevent B&N From developing their own device.

There is probably nothing patentable in the Nook that B&A are not already licensing. The only unique thing about the Nook is two screens. My old Razr had that.

Are you sure this isn't a troll? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29968052)

Spring Design claims that they have been developing a dual-screen, Android-based e-book reader since 2006, filing patents all the while

This doesn't seem possible, as Android was first officially released in late 2007, and Spring Design does not appear to be a member of the Open Handset Alliance, indicating that they weren't privy to Android during it's original inception.

Setting aside Android, the Nook itself is an eBook reader, a type of device that's been developed by numerous companies for ages, so there's a lot of prior art.

Does Nook incorporate specific (unknown?) features that are otherwise unique to the Alex e-Book reader developed by Spring? If not, then they would appear not to have a case.

Re:Are you sure this isn't a troll? (1)

TaggartAleslayer (840739) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968180)

Other than the devices being almost identical in nature there are no similarities, no.

Re:Are you sure this isn't a troll? (2, Interesting)

Atraxen (790188) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968570)

Almost identical in nature? You mean because there is a eink screen over a color touch screen? They look nothing alike to me.
http://www.springdesign.com/resource/jsp/products/Products.jsp [springdesign.com]
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nook/ [barnesandnoble.com]
I think the screen size and button placement on the Alex looks fairly awkward. Adding an advanced but power-intensive feature that's usually turned off onto something that's more efficient but more limited is a pretty standard design approach. And until this gets some full investigation (journalistic or legalistic, either is fine) we're putting the cart before the horse in passing judgment. For all we know, Spring Design really is a troll-like company, whose idea of "working closely with B&N" is having a meeting once with the company who decided not to license their stuff. Who knows yet?

Re:Are you sure this isn't a troll? (3, Insightful)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968594)

Hmm...maybe they're very similar because they're attempting to solve the same problem. If there is only one good way to do something given the constraints of the problem, why wouldn't you expect the products to be very similar even if independently developed?

Re:Are you sure this isn't a troll? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968652)

Other than the devices being almost identical in nature there are no similarities, no.

Like an IBM laptop and a Dell? Like a BMW and a Mercedes? Like Bud light and Perrier?

Buy him out, boys... (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968104)

I'm shocked... simply shocked that a large company would ever screw over a small player like this. God knows I can't think of anything like this happening before. Well, not for the last few minutes, at least.

This is why we can't have nice things. (4, Insightful)

straponego (521991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968120)


This case actually may be as legitimate as they come. Seriously, if these guys had NDAs and B&N pulled a Microsoft on them, they have my sympathy-- though this was the obvious way to make a new e-reader, these days. Linux, and now Android linux, are the obvious choices for the OS on any consumer device these days. You'd have to be morons not to have seen that (for Linux, ~6 years ago-- sorry Palm, too late; for Android, basically on announcement).

But in general, every new tech product or service that comes out in the US seems to be hit by lawsuits as soon as it appears it will be successful. At the very least this reduces competition and increases prices. It's also a huge boon to countries which don't give a rat's ass about IP (see China). We're killing ourselves. The US has become a terrible environment for innovation.

Re:This is why we can't have nice things. (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968658)

If the trade secrets and patents revolve around using some particular flavor of Linux on this kind of device, then there's nothing here. Being the first to use Linux on a particular kind of device isn't patentable. If you solved novel problems to get Linux on your device, then maybe the solutions to those problems might be patentable, but only if the solutions aren't obvious.

Could it be? (1)

mrdoogee (1179081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968168)

Could this actually be the copyright law protecting the Inventors/Developers from a deep pocketed infringer? I'll reserve judgement, but if copyright law actually HELPS the people who put in the hard work.... wow.

Re:Could it be? (2, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968460)

It has nothing whatever to do with copyrights. It has to do with patents and trade secrets.

These patents will run out in twenty years. If it were copyrights you'd be dead before they ran out.

trade secrets (1)

slashkitty (21637) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968172)

Once they are patented, they aren't secret anymore. It looks like B&N might have been using those secrets to develop something, but I don't think the idea of a dual screen is all that revolutionary.. only slightly different format than some handheld games.

Re:trade secrets (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968248)

The dual screens of the Nintendo DS does come to mind, but the biggest "duh" is from, of course, paper books.

Yes, the summary is a bit misleading (1)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968340)

IANAL, but my understanding is that you have rights to an invention it it's either 1) patented, or 2) a trade secret. Not both - by definition, stuff that's patented isn't a secret anymore - you've published the design. The linked article doesn't say anything about trade secrets, just patents - it seems the mistake is in the summary.

Re:Yes, the summary is a bit misleading (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968914)

http://egether.com/release/52/ [egether.com]

These guys appear to be claiming violation of an NDA and that is a stretch.

Re:trade secrets (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968686)

Somebody brought out a double (or was it even triple) screen laptop a few years back. I doubt it sold many because it weighed about 8 million pounds but the basic idea of multiple screens is nothing special at all.

Dual Screens for an e-reader? (1, Insightful)

2obvious4u (871996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968196)

How does this not fall under the obvious clause? There are millions of these [wikipedia.org] on shelves everywhere already.

Re:Dual Screens for an e-reader? (3, Insightful)

2obvious4u (871996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968266)

I guess its not so obvious, I pictured it more like a Nintendo DS with dual screens in a binder like setting. Whats the point of having two screens on the same page.... Two screens that open like a book, now that is an obvious use of multiple screens. Maybe I should patent it quick...

Re:Dual Screens for an e-reader? (2, Insightful)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968718)

Isn't that always the case? Any invention is obvious as soon as someone else invented it.

Re:Dual Screens for an e-reader? (1)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 4 years ago | (#29970470)

Isn't that always the case? Any invention is obvious as soon as someone else invented it.

Actually, it's funny that you mention that, only because the stuff my company makes is for such a niche market, that our stuff is one of the few things that doesn't follow that rule.

We're not the inventors of this stuff, just making new products for an existing market, but did you know that there is a pretty good market for underwater torque measurement?

It's funny when I tell people I build that stuff... they just look at me like... "why would you need to do that...?".

Heh.
-Taylor

Ah (5, Funny)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968202)

So the nook is the kindle killer, while Spring is the BN killer. Makes sense to me.
So what good is a hook to a nook, if the nook makes cannot read the future.
They can not do a cookbook on a nook, since they just got the hook. (apologies).

Re:Ah (4, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968414)

Been reading to your 4 year old a lot lately? Maybe a little too much?

Re:Ah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29968490)

Meant to do +1 Funny. Did -1 Overrated by accident.

Re:Ah (3, Funny)

jayspec462 (609781) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968530)

I'm currently submitting a patent application for the use of a Zans to open cans.

Re:Ah (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968564)

Everything that you need to know you learned BEFORE kindergarten, eh?

Re:Ah (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968536)

5 and 3 y.o. And yes, it is one of their favorite books. In fact, it USED to be one that I enjoyed.

Re:Ah (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968640)

Wow, all those rhymes just over some crooks fighting over a book.

My eyes must be going. (1)

loganljb (1424009) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968262)

Man, I think I need to get glasses. I looked at the headline, saw that Spring Design was suing Barnes and Noble over Nookie, and thought that maybe I was in the wrong business.

Re:My eyes must be going. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29968760)

Shut the fuck up, you goddam limey. Go and like salaut the queen or something.

does anyone else think (1)

archangel9 (1499897) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968290)

that this is fishy?

Spring Design claimed that the two companies had meetings and other communications, reaching all the way to the executive level, on the subject of the product and collaboration.

Why would a company take its ideas to a corporate giant, discuss and disclose their plans, then both companies release a similar product? TFA says nothing about the two companies' plans falling apart and going their separate ways with Non-Disclosure agreements in hand. What went wrong? If Spring has a legal foot to stand on they'll rake them over the coals, legally. If the NDAs can't be produced and approved meeting minutes detailing a failed offering aren't shown, B&N could get away with this.

"Oh, they brought in this cool idea and said we could use it. No, we didn't sign anything saying we wouldn't... here is the video surveillance tape of their developers handing out copies of the software... we thought it was open source"

This is where the patents come in (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968468)

Since Spring (presumably) has patents on key elements, B&N is going to have to find a copy of the licensing agreement that hasn't been used for bird cage liners. NDAs wouldn't matter in this case, except to magnify the potential penalties by making the infringement willful.

Re:This is where the patents come in (2, Insightful)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968858)

If something is patented, then how can an NDA apply to it since it's already, by definition, public?

The article was woefully lacking in details, but I'm guessing the most likely thing going on here is that Spring thought they had an implied contract with B&N.

I have trouble believing that any patent in this area that is less than 3 years old will stand up to scrutiny. Prior art and obviousness are too big a hurdle for anything less than 10 years old or so.

Re:This is where the patents come in (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968954)

B&N licenses patents that are valid, as do all the other reader manufacturers. Other than that, since they weren't the first on the scene, you can assume they are simply following the market here.

There is nothing unique in the Nook OTHER than two screens.

That is hardly patentable.

Re:does anyone else think (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968814)

I guess that B&N saw the Spring Design thing that looked a lot like the kindle, and that made them design something that looks a lot like the kindle. So, Spring Design has the copyright/patent on ebooks that looks like the kindle? Maybe Amazon should have patented "ebooks that look like the kindle".

Re:does anyone else think (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 4 years ago | (#29969174)

A very rational calculation that a large corporation like B&N might make is that a company like Spring Design doesn't have the financial wherewithal to sue them for outright stealing the design. When the spreadsheet is done, it might show that it's cheaper to tie up Spring Design in court for a couple years, exhausting their venture capital until they give up, than it would be to license the design.

Sigh (4, Informative)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968406)

The word patent means open or visible. Honours in England are granted by "letters patent" which are sealed in an open, i.e. readable, form. The meaning carries through into law; something can be a trade secret or patented but not both.

So how their patents, which they shared with a) B&N and b) every literate person in the world, can be a secret is a mystery to me.

What's patentable? (4, Insightful)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968410)

OK, we all want to support the underdog here. I know I do.

But seriously, what new, patentable ideas, do you need in an eBook? Make a computer (covered by existing patents), give it an e-paper screen (existing patents) an input device (touch screen, keyboard, rollerball, touchpad - all existing patents), storage (existing patents), OS (existing patents) and some applications (most notably, an eBook reader - existing patents).

I know people patent all kinds of obvious ideas, but I can't for the life of me see any novel ideas that need solving, cobbling together existing components into an eBook.

Re:What's patentable? (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968568)

but I can't for the life of me see any novel ideas that need solving, cobbling together existing components into an eBook

If you could have come up with the idea off-hand in writing up a reply to a Slashdot article, it wouldn't be much in the way of a novel idea, would it?

Re:What's patentable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29968772)

Been there been done that..its how the world works... bigger fish will always come in and eat where the smaller fish had good grazing.

Small fish need to stop being lazy and showing the big fish where to eat thinking that the big fish will give them money for it.

Re:What's patentable? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29969006)

My bet is they are claiming dual screens are a big deal. (Which is not true. Lots of devices have two screens, and some of them (cell phone) can probably read ebooks).

They do not specifically suggest in their press release that any patents are being violated: http://egether.com/release/52/ [egether.com]

Adsense (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29969336)

I love that the ad I got for this article on slashdot was for the B&N nook.

There may be no bad guys in this... (1)

khb (266593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29969616)

B&N may well have been careful to have "firewalled" off the team that evaluated each of the readers (no doubt there were many potential suppliers). In fact, it would be surprising if a large and experienced company didn't take reasonable precautions regarding NDAs.

The various potential suppliers may individually and/or collectively feel miffed that they weren't selected. If they have acquired (or are in the process of acquiring) various patents they may well get some of the action in any event.

Of course, perhaps the Spring guys are Trolls or the B&N folks Evil Giants. This will only become known if the case goes all the way to Trial which is relatively rare.

Wait and see (1)

JasonKChapman (842766) | more than 4 years ago | (#29970434)

It's telling that Spring's press release uses more space extolling the virtues of its product than describing the situation behind the suit. It's also curious that the primary features it hypes "full Internet browsing while reading" and "interactive multi-media open Internet access", while the nook won't even have a Web browser. B&N basically says they might add one later, if the users want it. This is totally a wait and see situation, because right now it's not at all clear who the bad guy is.
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