Amazon, E-ink, Sony, and B&N Are Being Sued for Patent Infringement

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Sony Librie

It's only been a couple days since E-ink disentangled themselves from the infringement lawsuit filed by the patent troll Copytele, and it looks like E-ink is back in the thick of it again. A new lawsuit has just been filed by Research Frontiers. This is a publicly traded research firm based in Woodbury NY, and they are claiming that E-ink's screen tech infringes upon a couple patents owned by Research Frontiers:

In this lawsuit, Research Frontiers asserts infringement by the named defendants of United States Patent No. 6,606,185, entitled “SPD Films and Light Valves Comprising Liquid Suspensions of Heat-Reflective Particles of Mixed Metal Oxides and Methods of Making Such Particles,” and United States Patent No. 5,463,491, entitled “Light Valve Employing a Film Comprising an Encapsulated Liquid Suspension, and Method of Making Such Film.”

You can find the patents here and here. I skimmed the filings, and the technical details describe a technology that is so different from what I know of E-ink's screen tech that  it's not clear to me how E-ink's  screen tech infringes (or even if the tech infringes at all).

Other details are easier to explain, though. For example, E-ink's customers are being sued for contributory infringement (definition).  This lawsuit is based on the theory that Amazon, B&N, and Sony bought screens from E-ink knowing that the screens infringed on the patents.

Or at least that is what Research Frontiers would have you believe; this also has the appearance of a troll going after the deepest pockets. (Why Rakuten/Kobo was left out, I do not know. Perhaps they settled.)

E-ink reported revenues of close to 900 million USD last year, with a gross profit of around 93 million USD (according to Bloomberg). The revenue is down from a peak of 1.3 billion USD in 2011.

I unfortunately don't have any first hand knowledge of whether this lawsuit has any merit, so at this point I will invite comment from anyone in the screen tech industry.

But one detail I can provide is that this lawsuit isn't as newsworthy as it might appear. This type of lawsuit is so common in tech that it is almost background noise for the major tech companies like Amazon, Google, Yahoo, etc. Check out the 10-k filings for those companies and you'll find boilerplate mentions of being sued for patent infringement. In fact, this is so common that I think Amazon is the only one that even lists the ongoing lawsuits any more.

image by saschapohflepp

E-Ink.info

About Nate Hoffelder (11169 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

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