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Apple sued for promoting iPhone as eBook reader

An overseas communications firm is suing Apple for promoting its iPhone handset as a touchscreen digital book reader, a concept it claims to have patented over seven years ago.

In a 7-page complaint filed with a Virginia district court Monday, Berne, Switzerland-based MONEC Holding Ltd 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."

A self-described "leading innovator for mobile, globally usable communication solutions," MONEC claims to be in the business of "developing and marketing equipment for the transmission of data to mobile electronics communication systems, managing and utilizing patents in this area and awarding licenses."

In its lawsuit, the firm takes issue with 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 touchscreen handset can serve as a capable eBook reader.

MONEC believes those advances directly violate its patent, which describes a "light-weight" 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."

The Swiss firm maintains that Apple is "well aware" of its patent and claims the ongoing infringement has caused injury to its property and business in an amount to be determined as damages at trial. It's also seeking attorney's fees and an injunction to preventing Apple from further infringement.

Although MONEC does not identify the specific eBook reading applications that prompted its lawsuit, the complaint was filed just weeks after Apple began distributing Amazon.com's Kindle eBook reader software through the App Store. Another eBook application called Classics has been available since last year.