Kindle Sparks Patent Suit by Discovery
By Kim Hart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009; Page D04
Discovery Communications sued Amazon.com yesterday, accusing the e-commerce giant of infringing its patent for electronic book technology with the Kindle reader.
Discovery, based in Silver Spring, said Amazon's two versions of the Kindle, as well as its online services related to the e-reader, violate a patent that the media company and founder John Hendricks received in November 2007, the same month Amazon released the first version of Kindle. The patent deals with encryption technology for distributing digital publications.
"The Kindle and Kindle 2 are important and popular content delivery systems," said Discovery general counsel Joseph A. LaSala. "We believe they infringe our intellectual property rights, and that we are entitled to fair compensation. Our tradition as an inventive company has produced considerable intellectual property assets for our shareholders, and today's infringement litigation is part of our effort to protect and defend those assets."
An Amazon spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
Discovery is best known for its channel on cable television, and is not seen as an Amazon competitor. But Discovery and Hendricks have been "significant players in the development of digital content and delivery services in the 1990s," the company said in a statement.
"Hendricks' work included inventions of a secure, encrypted system for the selection, transmission and sale of electronic books." He filed for a patent in 1999.
A Discovery spokesman said the company has not developed e-reader technology using the patent. In the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware, Discovery is seeking compensation from Amazon for using the patent, not an injunction to prevent it from selling Kindle.
Amazon's Kindle got attention after its release as a possible replacement for paper-based reading, and its sequel, released last month, won praise for more user-friendly features. But Amazon has been criticized by publishers who say it is trying to avoid paying royalties related to its text-to-speech feature and by consumers who are frustrated that Kindle-ready books are locked to the device with software restrictions. The portable Kindle, which costs about $360, connects wirelessly to Amazon's Web site, where books can be purchased.
The Discovery spokesman declined to say whether the company planned to sue other e-reader makers, such as Sony.
More and more, I'm happy with my decision to go with the Sony. We'll see how this plays out.
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