Kodak, Apple squabble continues, may delay patent auction


posted Monday, June 25, 2012 at 4:28 PM EDT

Kodak's logo. Click here to visit the Kodak website!Bankrupt imaging icon Eastman Kodak Co. and its one-time partner, consumer electronics manufacturer Apple Inc. have both fired their latest salvos in a lengthy struggle over ten patents dating back to the early 1990s, reports UK-based tech website The Register, among others.

In the middle of last week, Kodak filed a complaint with the US Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, claiming that Apple was attempting to "delay and derail" its attempt to sell off a large chunk of its patent portfolio by claiming ownership of the ten patents. For its part, Apple has claimed that Kodak seeks to rob it of its right to assert claims to the patents through the courts. Muddying the waters still further, Flashpoint Inc.--the company behind the long-expired Digita operating system that powered many of Kodak's early consumer cameras--claims that neither Kodak nor Apple owns the patents, and that the rights were in fact transferred to it when it was spun off from Apple in 1996.

From 1992 to 1994, Kodak and Apple worked together on digital camera technology, and the patents in question are said to stem from that work. According to Kodak, the two companies signed an agreement at the end of 1994 that each would retain their respective intellectual property. The following month, Kodak filed for the first of the disputed patents, and by 2010 all ten had been granted. 

Since receiving the patents, Kodak has filed complaints with the US International Trade Commission, alleging infringement of its patents by Apple and HTC. Apple responded by claiming that it owned the inventions in some of the patents. Subsequently, the ITC has ruled against Kodak in the Apple case for one of the key patents, suggesting that the only infringement found was of a patent claim that, due to obviousness, should not have been allowed in the first place.

Kodak is reported to have referred to Apple as the "single largest infringer of patents" in its Digital Capture Portfolio, which includes some 700 patents it hopes to auction in early August. The company goes on to suggest that Apple may itself be a potential purchaser of the patents, and may be trying to disrupt Kodak's ability to sell the portfolio, as well as delaying its payment of royalties. For its part, Apple is said to have noted that it doesn't believe the bankruptcy court is legally entitled to hear Kodak's complaint, stating that the litigation commenced before Kodak's bankruptcy proceedings.