That is completely wrong. No one had heard of the Sony ebook readers (which I think were already on Gen3 when the Kindle first came out). However, Amazon has done a great job of raising public awareness of ebook readers and the Kindle. No one thinks the Kindle is an iPad rip-off.
Sony was on their second generation when the Kindle came out. Sony released their 3rd Gen E Ink touch screen after the 1st Gen Kindle.
And it is also incorrect to say that no one heard of the Sony Readers before. Sony partnered with Borders in 2006 (before the Kindle) and had had a presence at every one of Borders stores (the main stores at least, not the Bordres Express stores). Sony had demo units for people to play around with all over Bordres stores (and still do) and have a spot on Border's online store.