Microsoft Files Patent Infringement Complaints Against Barnes & Noble Over E-Readers

March 21, 2011. Microsoft filed complaints in the U.S. District Court (WDWash) alleging patent infringement, and the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) alleging violation of Section 337, against Barnes & Noble, Inc. (BNI), Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., Inventec Corporation (IC), and others.

Microsoft alleges in its District Court complaint [9 pages in PDF] that Barnes & Noble's Android based e-reader, named Nook, and tablet named Nook Color, manufactured by Foxconn, Inventec and others, infringe five U.S. patents held by Microsoft:

Microsoft seeks compensatory damages, treble damages for willful infringement, costs and attorneys fees, and injunctive relief from the District Court.

The District Court action is Microsoft Corporation v. Barnes & Noble, Inc., et al., U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, D.C. No. 2:11-cv-00485. Microsoft is represented in this action by the law firms of Danielson Harrigan, Woodcock Washburn, and Sidley Austin.

Microsoft's Horacio Gutierrez stated in a release that Microsoft has created a "patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers", and that "HTC, a market leader in Android smartphones, has taken a license under this program." However, Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec have not received licenses, and therefore, "Their refusals to take licenses leave us no choice but to bring legal action to defend our innovations".

This action pertains to e-book reader technology. However, it is related to other patent infringement actions involving Android mobile computing and communications technology. For example, Microsoft sued Motorola in October of 2010. See, story titled "Microsoft Alleges That Motorola's Android Smart Phones Infringe Its Patents" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,138, October 4, 2010.

In other similar actions, Nokia has sued Apple, Apple has sued HTC, and Oracle has sued Google. See, story titled "Nokia Files Section 337 Complaint Against Apple" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,030, December 30, 2009; story titled "Apple Sues HTC for Patent Infringement" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,055, March 4, 2010; and, story titled "Oracle Files Patent Infringement Complaint Against Google" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2123, August 11, 2010.

Gutierrez stated in a second release that "Together with the patents already asserted in the course of our litigation against Motorola, today's actions bring to 25 the total number of Microsoft patents in litigation for infringement by Android smartphones, tablets and other devices. Microsoft is not a company that pursues litigation lightly. In fact, this is only our seventh proactive patent infringement suit in our 36-year history. But we simply cannot ignore infringement of this scope and scale."

Foxconn, which is based in Taiwan, with facilities in the People's Republic of China, makes handsets and wireless communication devices.

Inventec, which is based in Taiwan, makes notebooks, enterprise servers, storage products, wireless communications, network applications, consumer mobile devices, and consumer electronic devices.

Microsoft's USITC action is brought under 19 U.S.C. 1337, regarding patent infringement by imported goods.

A spokesman for Barnes & Noble stated in an e-mail to TLJ that "As a matter of policy we do not comment on litigation."