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Kodak sues Apple for interfering in patent portfolio sale

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Kodak just filed a lawsuit against Apple that states the company wrongly claims to own 10 patents that came out of joint projects between the companies back in the 1990s.

Kodak (Flickr)
Kodak (Flickr)

Kodak's patent sale is a major part of the company's plan to restructure after filing for bankruptcy early this year, but Apple quickly threw a wrench into that plan by claiming ownership of some key digital camera patents that Kodak was hoping to sell. Nearly six months have passed, but Kodak has finally prepared a response — the company just filed a lawsuit that states Apple wrongly claims to own 10 patents that came out of joint projects between the two companies back in the 1990s. Kodak is even asserting that Apple itself continues to infringe on Kodak's patents, saying that "Apple is the single largest infringer of patents in the Digital Capture Portfolio and also a potential purchaser of those patents." It's not clear whether this means that Apple approached Kodak about buying its patents, or that Kodak simply anticipates Apple will have interest in the eventual auction.

In its complaint against Apple (and second defendant FlashPoint Technology), Kodak cited a number of reasons for believing that it should be free to sell its patents — one significant defense is the fact that Kodak has generated more than $3 billion in revenue since 2001 by licensing these patents. The company also noted that "Apple's strategy has been to use its substantial cash position to delay as long as possible the payment of royalties to Kodak, and to interfere with the Debtors' planned section 363 sale of the Digital Capture Portfolio." Furthermore, Kodak also pointed out that Apple "had a full and fair opportunity to obtain discovery and prosecute its ownership claim" back in 2010, but nothing came out of that opportunity.

Kodak certainly has motivation to wrap this suit up as quickly as possible — the company said in its filing that it "will continue to suffer serious harm if Apple and FlashPoint are permitted to continue their public campaign to create uncertainty as to ownership of the Claimed Kodak Patents." This patent sale is a big part of Kodak's plan to move past bankruptcy — we'll see if this lawsuit is at all helpful in doing that.