Did Barnes & Noble steal a rival's design for the Nook e-reader?

Barnes & Noble (BKS) last month introduced its e-book reader Nook (pictured), a competitor to Amazon (AMZN)'s Kindle, that it's slated to begin shipping around Thanksgiving. The Nook announcement overshadowed that of a competitor called Alex, from Spring Design, a little-known Silicon Valley company.

When Spring Design announced Alex, tech site Engadget dismissed it as a "desperate" also-ran that, like Nook, features a combination six-inch e-ink screen and three-inch LCD screen, has Wi-Fi capability, and uses Google's Android as its operating system. But Spring Design says Nook, not Alex, is the copy-cat -- and it's suing Barnes & Noble for violating non-disclosure agreements and misappropriating trade secrets.