Kodak Sues Apple, RIM Over Patent Violations

Perhaps emboldened by a recent court victory, Eastman Kodak announced on Thursday it has filed suit against Apple and Research In Motion Limited (RIM), alleging the two smartphone makers are infringing on Kodak digital imaging technology.

Kodak (NYSE:EK) filed its complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) as well as in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, alleging that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) are in violation of a patent Kodak holds to digitally preview an image taken with a digital phone.

"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, vice president and chief intellectual property officer for Eastman Kodak, in a statement. "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.

"In the case of Apple and RIM, we've had discussions for years with both companies in an attempt to resolve this issue amicably, and we have not been able to reach a satisfactory agreement. In light of that, we are taking this action to ensure that we protect the interests of our shareholders and the existing licensees of our technology," she added.

The case follows a Dec. 17 ruling in the case of Kodak vs. Samsung, where an ITC Administrative Law Judge issued a ruling declaring that the Kodak patent covering color image preview was valid and enforceable and that Samsung's camera-enabled smartphone infringed upon that Kodak patent. The two firms have since settled.

Kodak is now seeking from the ITC a limited exclusion order preventing the importation of infringing devices marketed by Apple and RIM. Both companies are impacted by the ITC, since both firms make their phones in China and import them to the U.S. in the case of Apple, or to Canada, in the case of RIM.

Calls to Kodak, Apple and RIM for comment were not returned.

Settlement likely?

William Stofega, program manager for mobile device technology and trends at IDC figures this will all end rather quickly with cross license agreements and settlements.

"No one wants to engage in a decade-long patent fight. No one makes money but the lawyers. So [Kodak] will say let's see what they come back with and let's be reasonable," he told InternetNews.com. "Kodak also doesn't want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg."

Things certainly are getting litigious in the smartphone world. In December, Nokia sued Apple, claiming a number of patent violations in not just the iPhone but iPod as well.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Apple, lawsuit, patent, RIM, Kodak