Apparently Eastman Kodak's bankruptcy filing this week wasn't a surprise to anyone: just hours after Kodak filed in New York, Apple sought authority from the court "to enter into a $950 million postpetition financing facility secured by security interests in and liens upon substantially all of Kodak's assets." In essence, Apple is claiming to have ownership over key Kodak patent assets, including US Patent No. 6,292,218. According to Apple, this patent has been pivotal in driving Kodak's recent patent licensing strategy, providing over $3 billion in associated revenue. The '218 patent has been asserted by Kodak against Sony, JVC, Samsung, LG, RIM, Fujifilm, and even Apple — the patent claims priority back to 1994 and covers a color digital still camera having a display for viewing captured images.
Apple argues in its court filing that it worked with Kodak back in the early 1990s on the commercialization of digital camera technology, only to learn in 2010 that Kodak had "misappropriated Apple's technology and sought patents of its own claiming this technology." While it's impossible based on the limited information in this court filing to accurately examine the discrete contributions Apple and Kodak made to this technology area, it is interesting to note that both companies actively hit the market with consumer-level cameras having LCD viewers in the mid-1990s — Apple with its QuickTake line and Kodak with its DC series of cameras.
The ramifications of Apple's claims here could be real. If Apple is successful in establishing ownership over any of the patents Kodak has asserted against Apple and others, or licensed under agreements with other competitors, Kodak's last-ditch effort to gain value from its patent portfolio going into a bankruptcy restructuring plan could be severely hindered. Although a judge has already "approved initial availability of $650 million" in financing for Kodak, we imagine that there will be more to hear at the first court date for bankruptcy hearings on February 15th. We'll keep you updated as more details come in.