Apple hit with lawsuit over iPhone as e-book reader

A Swiss "communications" firm, Monec, is reportedly suing Apple for allegedly infringing on a patent it filed for an e-book reader that loosely fits the description of the iPhone.

There's some speculation that the Kindle for iPhone app may have sparked the lawsuit.

Earlier this month Apple got hit with a lawsuit over an "exploding" iPod Touch. Now it appears to be getting hit with a suit over the exploding e-book market.

A couple of blogs, including Apple Insider, are reporting that a Swiss communications firm, Monec Holding, has filed suit in a Virginia district court. Monec accuses the iPhone maker of "patent infringement, unfair trade practices, monopolization, and tortious interference for allegedly treading on its January 2002 patent No. 6,335,678 titled 'Electronic device, preferably an electronic book.'"

We've never heard of Monec, but the mission statement on its rather austere Web site claims it's "a leading innovator for mobile, globally usable communication solutions...with user-friendly products and pioneering solutions, Monec provides companies and users with secure, wireless access solutions which offer highest degree of flexibility, functionality, speed and independence."

Apparently, last year Monec also sued HP for patent infringement.

Apple Insider says Monec's beef centers on "Apple's move to distribute digital book reading applications through the App Store, which it subsequently sees as an endorsement by the Cupertino-based company that its touch-screen handset can serve as a capable eBook reader."

According to Monec, that violates a patent it filed for a "lightweight" electronic device with a "touch-screen" LCD display having the "dimensions such that (...) approximately one page of a book can be illustrated at normal size, this display being integrated in a flat, frame-like housing."

It's unclear what exactly set off the lawsuit but there's some speculation that it may have been prompted by Amazon's Kindle for iPhone e-book reader software appearing in Apple's App Store--even though Apple has had other e-book reader applications in the App Store for a while.

Apple had no comment about the lawsuit. How about you?