5 Comments

Summary:

Amazon applied for a patent four years ago when work was underway on the device that would eventually be known as the Kindle. The patent was awarded today, which points out how a slow patent process is unsuited for the fast-paced world of electronics.

Kindle 1

Second display in patent dropped in Kindle 2

Amazon was awarded the patent for a “handheld electronic book reader device having dual displays” today, but does it even matter? Amazon applied for the patent back in 2006 when work was underway on the electronic reader that would eventually be known as the Kindle. The interesting part of the patent deals with the second display, which is the narrow mirrored scroll bar (noted right) on the original Kindle. This bar was used with the accompanying scroll button to make menu selections. Some users found this method a bit clumsy to use, and Amazon eliminated it in the next generation models. They now have a patent for that second display but no longer use it.

This is a good example of how slowly the patent office moves compared to the fast-paced world of consumer electronics. This is clearly the situation with the Kindle patent; during the four years after the patent application Amazon modified the Kindle design and removed one of the key features covered in the patent application. Does this largely invalidate the benefits of the patent to Amazon, or will it use it to stop competing e-book readers?

A few competing devices have appeared that take the narrow second display and expand its uses. The Nook from Barnes & Noble and the Alex from Spring Design each have a largish second touchscreen display that is used to facilitate navigating around the device. It is not clear if this new patent for the Kindle would have an impact on either of these products. It would be ironic if these companies would now be faced with licensing the second display from Amazon, which no longer uses it on the Kindle.

Image credit: Amazon

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d): Irrational Exuberance Over E-Books?

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  1. I doubt the Kindle patent would apply to the secondary screens on the Nook and Alex because they’re too different. That’s just a gut feeling, certainly not a legal opinion.

  2. Not the scroll bar, according to Engadget,a direct quote from the patent says:
    “A handheld electronic device comprising: a housing; an electronic paper display disposed in the housing and having a first surface area; and a liquid crystal display (LCD) disposed in the housing proximate the electronic paper display, the LCD having a second surface area that is smaller than the first surface area of the electronic paper display.”

    1. James Kendrick Peter Tuesday, July 6, 2010

      I read the patent too and it clearly applies to the LCD of the scroll bar. That is the way it is described in legalese, and thus why I asked if this would impact other dual display readers.

  3. It will be interesting to see how Amazon decides to use this patent against Barnes and Noble. Seems highly likely they will take some type of action, at the very least imposing licensing rights fees. It seems very much like the Nook falls under the scope of this patent. In fact, while reading the patent text, I was imagining that if someone was trying to describe the Nook to me in the most technical manner possible, this is what it would sound like. And yes, I would find it darn funny if Nook and Alex are forced to license the design from Amazon. ; ) More of my thoughts about this on my blog: http://ebookreader-ben.com/amazons-4-yr-old-patent-could-mean-huge-lawsuit-for-barnes-and-noble/

  4. Mister Fix IT Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    The iPad has made this thing irrelevant. For the most mobile setup for executives and consumers all you need is a superphone, iPad and a portable WiFi/3G router with appropriate data plan. That is it. If you are carrying more than 3 pounds you need a cranial adjustment and a new business/work model.

    Note: Many corporate IT departments still dish out legacy notebooks/netbooks and crappy blackberries. Beware of such IT shops and run from them for they know not of what they do.
    Incompetence has always been rampant at corporate IT shops, trust me since many Fortune 500 companies pay me well to come in and fix their broken shops. You know who you are people and the real workers at these fine corporatiosn hate and resent you with a passion. :-)

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