Peter Kafka

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Discovery To Amazon: Hands Off Our Kindle!

Here’s an odd one I didn’t see coming: Discovery Communications (DSICA), the cable network best known for bringing you fare like “Shark Week”, says that Amazon’s (AMZN)  Kindle e-book reader violates one of its patents.

Discovery is arguing that Amazon violated a patent it received in November 2007 for an “electronic book security and copyright protection system [which] provides for secure distribution of electronic text and graphics to subscribers and secure storage.” Discovery founder John S. Hendricks is listed as one of the patent’s inventors.

That is, Discovery says Amazon ripped off its digital rights management scheme — the lock and key system Amazon uses to protect the books and other other publications it sells via its online store. It doesn’t want the court to stop Amazon from selling the Kindle (or its books), but it wants royalties, damages, etc.

One puzzler here is that Amazon introduced the Kindle, along with its e-book store, in November 2007. — the same month Discovery received its patent, which it applied for in September 1999. Another: Has Discovery gone after anyone else who’s sold a digital copy of a book using an encryption system — like, say, Sony (SNE), whose e-book reader and electronic bookstore predated Amazon’s?

Amazon declined to comment. Discovery declined to comment beyond the press release it sent out this afternoon announcing the suit:

SILVER SPRING, Md., March 17, 2009 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ — Discovery Communications, Inc. (DISCA)(DISCB)(DISCK) today filed a patent infringement suit against, Inc. in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, alleging infringement of a patent issued to Discovery Communications for electronic book technology.
Discovery Communications alleges that Amazon’s sale of the Kindle and Kindle 2 products and its electronic book delivery system infringe U.S. Patent Number 7,298,851, “Electronic Book Security and Copyright Protection System.” A copy of the filing can be found on Discovery’s web site: .
Discovery Communications and John S. Hendricks were significant players in the development of digital content and delivery services in the 1990’s. Hendricks’ work included inventions of a secure, encrypted system for the selection, transmission, and sale of electronic books.
Joseph A. LaSala, Jr., General Counsel of Discovery Communications, said: “The Kindle and Kindle 2 are important and popular content delivery systems. We believe they infringe our intellectual property rights, and that we are entitled to fair compensation. Legal action is not something Discovery takes lightly. 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.”

And here’s Discovery’s complaint, which includes the patent it says Amazon violated. Click the button on the top right to make the document full-screen.

discovery-communications-complaintFree Legal Forms

And finally, here’s one of the many schematics included in Discovery’s complaint, which does sort of help illustrate why Discovery was thinking about e-book distribution years ago — it imagines a future where e-book consumption and a TV guide are intertwined.