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Microsoft sues Barnes & Noble over Nook

SEATTLE -- Microsoft Corp. broadened its attack on Google Inc.'s Android software, filing patent infringement lawsuits Monday against Barnes & Noble Inc. and two manufacturers over the Android-based Nook e-reader.

In the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Microsoft said it is seeking triple damages based on willful patent infringement of five patents, plus legal costs and an injunction against further infringement. Microsoft said it also filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission, which has the power to bar imports of infringing products.

Barnes & Noble's Nook and Nook Color devices, which compete with Inc.'s Kindle e-reader and various Sony Corp. devices, are based on Android, system software developed by Google first for smartphones and then for tablet computers. Microsoft also sued Motorola, a maker of Android-based smartphones, for patent infringement in October 2010. Motorola counter-sued in November.

Microsoft's lawsuits don't go after Google directly, but they could still hurt the Web search leader if device makers decide they don't want to pay to license Microsoft's technology or risk a legal tussle with the deep-pocketed software maker.

Microsoft said in the complaint that the Nook e-reader devices and software step on patented technology for showing a webpage's content before loading background images, allowing users to read the page faster. It also pointed to technology around the way "apps," or small programs, indicate the status of a download, and technology for opening a separate window on the screen that makes navigating through content easier.

The other two patents are related to selecting and annotating text in documents.

The suit also named Taiwanese manufacturers Inventec Corp. and Foxconn International Holdings Ltd.

On a company blog, Microsoft said that after a year of discussions, Barnes & Noble, Inventec and Foxconn, part of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., have been unwilling to sign a license.

"Our firm view remains, however, that licensing is the best way forward for the industry, and we will continue to prefer the licensing path to litigation." wrote Horacio Gutierrez, deputy general counsel of the Redmond, Wash., company.

Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating declined to comment on the litigation. Shares of New York-based Barnes & Noble added 37 cents to close at $9.26. Microsoft gained 53 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $25.33

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