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Apple sues Amazon, Microsoft sues Barnes & Noble

Apple gunning for Amazon's Appstore name, B&N under fire for alleged patent infringements in Nook


Published: 22 March, 2011

READ MORE: Amazon | Microsoft | App Store | Patents/IPR | eBook | Android

Amazon duly opened the doors of its Android Appstore at the CTIA Wireless show, but the first to strike back was not Google - whose Android Market Amazon threatens to undercut - but Apple. The iPhone maker filed suit, claiming trademark infringement by Amazon's choice of name for its digital shopfront. Meanwhile, another Android related lawsuit landed on the desk of Amazon's main US e-reader rival, Barnes & Noble, which is being sued by Microsoft for alleged patent violation.

The Android community is facing a web of litigation, though with the notable exception of Oracle/Java, most lawsuits are steering clear of Google itself. Microsoft, in particular, has staked a claim to many patents included in Android and its Linux foundation, with its suits partly designed to make its own WP7 more attractive, for being invulnerable to such actions. It sued Motorola last October, but it has not gone directly after Google yet, though the search giant did not hesitate to denounce its move, saying the lawsuit against B&N's Nook e-reader stifled innovation.

Microsoft's suit in US District Court alleges that the Android-based Nook violates several patents. Google responded in a statement: "Sweeping software patent claims like Microsoft's threaten innovation. While we are not a party to this lawsuit, we stand behind the Android platform and the partners who have helped us to develop it."

The action also cites manufacturer Foxconn of Taiwan, which makes the Nook. The firm was unfazed, with an official saying: "These things are very common practice in the industry. This is a routine matter." Another Taiwanese manufacturer and co-defendant, Inventec, did not comment, and nor did B&N itself. Accompanying the lawsuit is a complaint to the US International Trade Commission, which can theoretically ban imports into the country of devices that infringe patents.

"Companies manufacturing and shipping Android devices must respect our intellectual property rights," said Microsoft's statement, from deputy general counsel for intellectual property and licensing, Horacio Gutierrez. "To facilitate that we have established an industry-wide patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers." He stressed that some key Android players, such as HTC (also a major Windows Mobile vendor), had signed up to this program, as had Amazon. "We have tried for over a year to reach licensing agreements with Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec," Gutierrez continued. "Their refusals to take licenses leave us no choice but to bring legal action to defend our innovations and fulfill our responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year to bring great software products and services to market."

In particular, Microsoft alleges that its patents cover a range of functions "essential to the user experience" on Android, and especially on the Nook e-reader and Nook Color tablet - including the way users tab through various screens, or interact with documents and ebooks. These seem to be different patents from those cited in the Motorola case.

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