July 23, 2012 - 16:26 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Eastman Kodak Co. has lost a patent case against Apple Inc. and Research In Motion Ltd., dealing a blow to the onetime film giant's efforts to raise billions of dollars by selling off its intellectual property, The Wall Stret Journal reported.
Kodak filed a complaint against the iPhone and BlackBerry makers at the U.S. International Trade Commission in early 2010, saying their devices infringed on its patent for previewing images with a digital camera. Late week, the commission dismissed the complaint, upholding a finding by one of its judges that the patent was invalid.
As such, the commission concluded that neither Apple nor RIM had violated trade laws that could have led to an injunction halting imports of their products. Since the patent at issue was one of Kodak's most valuable, the ruling raises fresh questions about how much money the company, now in Chapter 11, can raise from an auction that is expected to conclude next month, according to The Journal.
Kodak said the validity of its patent had been previously upheld and that it would appeal the ruling. RIM welcomed the decision. Apple declined to comment.
The patent in the case - number '218 - covers the way digital cameras preview images in a viewfinder. While it is just one of 1,100 patents the company hopes to sell in the bankruptcy-court auction, it has been the most lucrative for Kodak as it has sought to extract licensing fees from smartphone makers in recent years, and it is among those of most interest to potential bidders.
Patent '218 was crucial to Kodak's strategy of using intellectual-property suits to fund development of new consumer and commercial printers while the company's film business declined. Kodak has signed image-preview licenses with 32 companies in recent years, raising nearly $1 billion from just two of them: Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. Kodak had also hoped the patent would appeal to companies making tablets and other devices with built-in cameras.
"The ones that have been litigated are the most valuable ones," Kodak Chief Executive Antonio Perez said in an interview last year.
Kodak has said the patents on the block could be worth $2.6 billion, funds that will be important as it seeks to emerge from Chapter 11 as a viable company.
The company initially announced plans to sell the patents last August, but Kodak's weakened financial condition caused interested parties to hold back from bidding for fear the patents could be clawed back if the company filed for bankruptcy protection.
Denied the cash infusion that would have come with a sale, Kodak was forced to file for Chapter 11 in January.