By: Hayden-Anne Breedlove


As the summer months wind down, many last-minute vacationers try to squeeze in one more beach trip for a relaxing, work-free vacation. However, with today’s all-encompassing access to email, messages, and online work databases, it is easy to “forget” what a vacation is all about. Instead, many professionals spend more time replying to work emails than soaking up the sun. Lawyers’ use of smartphones is basically universal, with most attorneys using them for simple tasks like conducting legal research or scanning documents in depositions.[1] This makes work life easier by allowing attorneys instant access to much needed information. However, for the Vitamin-D deprived individuals who decide to multitask and try to do work on either a cell phone or computer on the beach, they are faced with the pestering problem of being unable to see their smartphone in the bright sunlight. Why is it that in a world where smartphones are a common accessory that have been around for years, technology companies have never implemented a system of viewing a phone screen in the sun?

The technology is out there, as seen in Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite, an e-reader that sells itself based on the feature that the screen can be easily viewed in the sun.[2] This e-reader employs an E-Ink brand electronic paper display that features sixteen shades of gray, making the text resemble a book, and ultimately making it easy to read in the sun.[3] E-Ink is an old partner of Amazon and a holder of many patents on the technology surrounding the Paperwhite.[4] However, to make it its own, Amazon developed a layer of plastic that sits on top of the E-Ink display and shines light down on it, thus making the E-Ink display look better and easier to read.[5]

In 2016, E-Ink, along with multiple e-reader producing companies, including Sony Electronics, Sony Corporation, Barnes & Noble Inc., LLC, and Inc., faced litigation over patent rights against Research Frontiers, Inc. (RFI).[6] RFI is a corporation that has worked exclusively on “developing suspected particle technology applicable for use in display and light control applications.”[7] RFI alleged patent infringement on three patents involving the particle technology.[8] RFI alleged that E-Ink infringed upon their “491 Patent,” entitled “Light Valve Employing a Film Comprising an Encapsulated Liquid Suspension, and Method of Making Such Film.”[9]

E-Ink made a motion for summary judgment, arguing a lack of dispute of material facts, claiming they were not infringing upon Patent 491.[10] The Court looked towards other patents and the basis of the contested patents.[11] Through this, the Court determined that there were genuine issues of material fact in dispute, thus denying the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.[12]  This case serves as an example of the litigation and importance of patent violation and implementation in technology.

The question still remains why this technology has not been implemented into cell phone display screens. There seem to be issues which involve the implementation of this technology with full color display technology.[13] However, Amazon has the technology through its patent with E-Ink that could lead to the development of a fast, high contrast display.[14] This will be an interesting topic to follow as technology advances, thus leading to the implementation of already existing technology into a device that already makes our lives simpler. Overall, too much sunshine might no longer be a valid excuse to not answer a work-related email.



[1] Legal Research and Law Library Management (Law Journal Press 2015).

[2] Id. at 6.

[3] Id.

[4] See Christopher Mims, Amazon is Working on Displays that Apple and Samsung Can’t Match, Quartz (Aug. 06, 2013),

[5] See id.

[6]  See id.

[7] Research Frontiers, Inc. v. E Ink Corp., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44547, 2, 2 (2016).

[8] Id. at 3.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id. at 41.

[12] Id.

[13] See supra note 4.

[14] Id.

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