So we followed up with Spring Design to figure out what exactly its relationship with Barnes & Noble had been during the development of the Nook and why the company was suing, and, well, it's looking like B&N played some dirty pool here. You're looking at the actual NDA signed by Barnes & Noble and Spring Design, wherein each party agreed to keep their secrets... secret. After signing the agreement, Spring Design showed the Alex dual-screen ebook reader and associated marketing materials to B&N execs all the way up B&N CFO Kevin Frain and B&N.com president William Lynch, who said he was "looking forward" to a partnership. Soon after that, Spring implies that all contact stopped until Barnes & Noble announced the Nook. Lawsuit time!

Here's where it gets tricky, though -- the NDA contains pretty standard language specifically allowing both B&N and Spring Design to walk away from each other and develop competing products, so long as they don't use any of the confidential information they learned under NDA. Without knowing exactly what Spring Design showed to B&N and how much of that influenced or is included in the Nook (which Barnes & Noble currently won't let anyone touch), we can't say much about how this one's going to play out, but for right now we're looking at a huge corporation bringing out an Android-based ebook reader with dual electronic paper and touchscreen LCD displays just months after being shown the same concept by a three-year-old startup, and that's not exactly a warm and fuzzy bedtime story. We'll see what happens next -- Barnes & Noble, you have anything to say?

Spring Design vs. Barnes & Noble complaint

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Spring Design vs. Barnes & Noble NDA and exhibits

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Spring Design vs. Barnes & Noble: all the nooks and crannies