Friday, 15 January 2010 02:56

Kodak sues Apple, RIM over imaging patents

Kodak has launched legal action against Apple and Research In Motion, alleging patent infringement. The iPhone and BlackBerry are at the heart of the matters, though other Apple products are also implicated.

Kodak claims that iPhones and camera-equipped BlackBerry devices infringe a patent relating to previewing images. This matter is being dealt with via a complaint to the US International Trade Commission (ITC).

Kodak is seeking a limited exclusion order that would prevent the importation of infringing devices - a very effective approach in an era of offshore manufacturing.

A recent ITC case between Kodak and Samsung confirmed that the image preview patent was valid and enforceable.

RIM filed a complaint against Kodak in November 2008, seeking a declaration that four patents that Kodak was trying to enforce against it were invalid or unenforceable, and alleging that Kodak was demanding exorbitant royalties. The case has yet to be heard.

Kodak has also filed two suits against Apple alleging infringement of Kodak patents, one relating to image preview and the processing of images with different resolutions, the other concerning patents relating to a method whereby one application can call upon another to perform certain functions.

Kodak notes that it has licensed its imaging technology to around 30 companies (including LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson), and that Sun Microsystems licensed the 'helper' patents involved in the second suit against Apple after a jury found Sun was infringing them.

It is possible that Apple products other than the iPhone infringe this patent. While the ITC complaint and the first suit are in the specific context of the iPhone, Kodak officials said "The allegations in the second suit apply to any Apple product that uses the processing method".

Kodak claims to be a reluctant litigant - see page 2.

The company seems more interested in getting Apple and RIM to pay royalties than keeping their products off the market.

"Our primary interest is not to disrupt the availability of any product but to obtain fair compensation for the use of our technology," said Laura  Quatela, chief intellectual property officer and vice president, Eastman Kodak.

"There's a basic issue of fairness that needs to be addressed. Those devices use Kodak technology, and we are merely seeking compensation for the use of our technology in their products," she added.

Kodak claims to have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in its patented technologies. Indeed, it was Kodak that originally invented the digital camera

"We remain open to negotiating a fair and amicable agreement with both Apple and RIM, which has always been our preference and our practice with other licensees," Quatela went on.

"We seek to avoid litigation in our licensing programs whenever possible. But when the infringement is persistent, we will act to defend the interests of our shareholders and licensees, and to promote the fair compensation that is the bedrock of innovation."

Neither Apple nor RIM has released a statement on the matter.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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