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Discovery hits Amazon with Kindle patent suit

The parent company of the Discovery Channel alleges that security features in Amazon's Kindle and Kindle 2 e-book readers violate its patents.

Correction, 10:50 a.m. PDT: This story gave an incorrect date for the filing of the patent. It was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1999.

Update: 2:10 p.m. To include Discovery's reasons for owning e-book patent.

Discovery Communications, parent company of the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, has filed a complaint against alleging that some security and copy protection features in the Kindle and Kindle 2 violate the company's patents.

Amazon Kindle

In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, Discovery has asked for unspecified monetary compensation.

Amazon representatives were not immediately available for comment.

According to a copy of the suit, Discovery charges that Amazon violated its patent for Electronic Book Security and Copyright Protection System. The patent, U.S. 7,298,851, was issued to Discovery Communications by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Nov. 20, 2007, per the lawsuit filing (PDF). It was initially filed in 1999.

The technology "provides for secure distribution of electronic text and graphics to subscribers and secure storage," Discovery said in the lawsuit.

My question is, why did Discovery create technology for an e-book reader? Is the entertainment company preparing to follow Amazon, Sony, and Hearst Corp. into the e-reader space?

After talking to a Discovery spokeswoman, she explains that the company's founder, John Hendricks is a bit of an inventor. In the 1990s, Hendricks tried his hand at coming up with systems to digitize content.

He explored technologies involving the digitization of TV content as well as e-book systems. In 2004, he sold the TV patents but Discovery kept the e-reader patents. When asked whether Discovery could build an e-book reader, the company's spokeswoman said "We are only focused on the Kindle at this time."