Federal Judge Allows Lawsuit to Move Forward in Spring Design vs. Barnes & Noble Over eReader Design

If you happened to receive one of those Nook devices as a gift this holiday season and have been enjoying the little book-reading gadget, know that what you’re holding in your hand is at the center of a big, ongoing legal battle and now a continued headache for its retailer and owner, Barnes & Noble. Beginning earlier in the year, the book chain was taken to court by Spring Design, who claimed that the retailer had stolen their designs for an eReader after the two companies had been in talks to collaborate on a device. After that collaboration didn’t wind up working out, B&N released the Nook and Spring released the Alex. Though the latter was released after the former, Spring saw a number of design similarities from the original concepts they’d brought to B&N. After a summer of fighting off the suit, trying to have it dropped by arguing that the design copyrights are too vague in the already crowded eReader market, the retailer was dealt a blow this week when a federal judge ruled that the case can and will move forward. Here’s a bit of Judge James Ware‘s statement:

“The court finds that plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence to permit a jury to reasonably infer that defendant improperly used or disclosed at least some of plaintiff’s trade secrets information,” Ware wrote.

“There is significant factual dispute, however, as to whether plaintiff’s information had a substantial influence on the Nook’s design, or whether defendant independently developed all of the Nook’s features. Moreover, comparing the specific features of the Nook with plaintiff’s alleged trade secrets is a fact-intensive task best left to a jury.”