Barnes & Noble's nook hasn't even seen the light of day yet (it's pre-order only), and it's already embroiled in a lawsuit. In this case, Spring Design, which has its own e-book reader, is claiming B&N has used IP garnered from meetings with Spring Design in its nook.
The lawsuit addresses Spring Design's "Alex" e-book reader, which features two e-ink displays with capacitive touchscreens as well as the Google Android operating systems. This is all very similar to the nook.
Spring Design claims in their press release that they and Barnes and Noble had been meeting since the beginning of this year, with B&N noting very favorable impressions of the device. It seemed there was a possibility that B&N and Spring Design would work together on a device, but the nook emerged instead, without warning.
Here's what Spring Design said in an emailed press release:
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 has been in development since 2006. It was (post-nook) recently announced, and its similarities to the nook were lost on none. It's unclear what effect this lawsuit will have on the impending launch of the nook, or on any such launch of the Alex, as well.