Finally got the actual lawsuit Spring Design filed in federal court against Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) over their dueling e-readers and a little time to look through it. (The full PDF is embedded after the jump.) Spring claims that it only shared certain info about its own e-reader because B&N was “seriously” considering acquiring it. In exchange, the company charges, B&N breached an NDA, misappropriated trade secrets, and competed unfairly. Spring is asking for unspecified damages and both a preliminary and permanent injunction against the sales of B&N’s Nook e-reader. But via email Spring exec Eric Kmiec says the company still wants what it has always wanted from B&N: a “strategic relationship.” A Barnes & Noble rep told CNET the company does not comment on litigation.
Yes, the Alex and the Nook have a lot of the same features, including feature two screens — one e-paper for reading, a smaller LCD for navigation. Will that help Spring in court? Probably not unless the company can prove that B&N knowingly replicated something that could only have come from confidential Spring Design info. Some details from the suit below:
– The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Monday afternoon, says an NDA was signed on Feb.12, 2009 (not spring, as the company had in its press release) after Spring Design was approached by Phil Baker on behalf of B&N. The NDA, which Spring says is governed by New York law, says the only “equitable relief” in a breach would be an injunction or “specific performance.”
– Spring says it showed the design for an interactive dual-screen navigation e-reader to Baker, including photos of versions. The company says Baker responded by telling them he’d never seen such an advanced e-reader design. In following weeks, Spring met with a series of B&N execs, including William Lynch, president of BN.com. The features Spring showed included dual-screen navigation, sharing books, and an Android base. Lynch, the suit claims, told Spring’s Albert Tang he;d never seen a dual-screen device like that and considered it “very advanced.” Spring says Lynch warned them not to deal with Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) because the Kindle maker “was likely to steal” the unique idea.
– Spring says B&N asked for an update in July; the e-reader maker says it provided a list of “confidential” features that later would show up in the produce announcement for B&N’s own Nook. If the Nook added the web browser it is capable of of, Spring claims then it “will have misappropriated Spring’s entire design concept.” The companies had another meeting before that Oct. 20 announcement. In none of them, says Spring, did B&N mention it was building its own device with many similar features. But the NDA included as an exhibit also acknowledges that either party may be evaluating similar proposals and that nothing the agreement restricts the rights to produce something similar unless it has used the confidential info.