Judge Dismisses Apple’s Patent Claim Against Ailing Kodak
March 10, 2012

Judge Dismisses Apple’s Patent Claim Against Ailing Kodak

New York District Judge Allan Gropper has announced that he will not allow Apple to pursue a patent-infringement suit against the recently bankrupted Eastman Kodak Company.

The decision came Thursday that the court would not hear Apple´s claim, which alleges that Kodak infringed on several of its patents used in various digital camera, digital picture frame and photo printer technologies.

In a hearing on Thursday, Judge Gropper commented that it would be an “inappropriate way forward” to permit Apple to go ahead with the lawsuit against the iconic yet bankrupt camera maker.

Last month Apple requested that courts lift a stay that had temporarily frozen a pending patent suit against Kodak in Rochester, New York.

While foiling Apple´s plans to get the case moved to Manhattan and tried before a jury, Judge Gropper did concede that the issue needs to be resolved as quickly as possible and in such a manner that does not further complicate Kodak´s plans to auction off its patents.

According to a Bloomberg report, Kodak hopes to raise as much as $2.6 billion for its entire portfolio of digital imaging patents. Apple, however, believes that it actually holds the rights to several of these patents, a claim that dates back to a mid-1990s collaboration between the two companies during which Kodak manufactured a number of Apple-designed digital cameras.

Kodak has alleged that Apple is attempting to strategically interfere with the sale of its patents in order to financially hamstring the ailing company. After declaring bankruptcy in January, Kodak took out a $950 million loan to see it through the bankruptcy process. Under the terms of the loan, Kodak has until the end of June to generate capital, much of which is riding on the sale of its patents.

Unfortunately for Kodak, Apple´s filing with the U.S. bankruptcy court was something of a formality, and the company may still decide to file a suit with the International Trade Commission.

A lead Apple attorney David Seligman has pointed out that Kodak itself is currently pursuing a number of its own suits involving patent claims and thus shouldn´t be shielded from the claims of others.

“I´m sure they have no problem moving ahead with the lawsuits where they´re the complainants,” Mr. Seligman told the judge.

According to Seligman, patent suits have been an integral part of Kodak´s long-term strategy. Now they´re just experiencing how uncomfortable it can be to have the shoe on the other foot.

Last May, Kodak took both Apple and Research in Motion to court, alleging that the two companies had infringed on patented technology related to the image previewing function on digital cameras.  And just two months ago, Kodak sued Apple and cell phone maker HTC over similar claims.

Bloomberg also reported that Apple has filed with a federal court to try to get an injunction against Kodak. Apple said in a court filing that it "also planned to seek an injunction against Kodak in federal court."


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