updated 03:47 pm EDT, Tue June 19, 2012
Portfolio sale key to Kodak's bankruptcy plans
Kodak has filed a new lawsuit against Apple, hoping to stop the latter from interrupting plans to sell part of its patent portfolio, Reuters reports. Documents were submitted yesterday through a bankruptcy court in Manhattan. Kodak asserts that Apple is wrongly claiming to own 10 patents derived from work the two companies did in the early 1990s. Also listed as a defendant is FlashPoint Technology, which claims ownership through an assignment from Apple, which spun off FlashPoint in 1996.
The patents document concepts related to previewing photos on LCDs. For Kodak, though, they are more importantly part of the company's collection of over 700 digital capture patents related to products like phones, cameras, and tablets. Kodak is hoping to sell them off as a part of its bankruptcy restructuring; since 2001, royalties from the patents have generated over $3 billion for the company.
Kodak moreover alleges that Apple is the biggest infringer of patents in its portfolio, and a potential buyer for the IP. "Apple's strategy has been to use its substantial cash position to delay as long as possible the payment of royalties to Kodak" and block the portfolio sale, the company states. "Apple and FlashPoint are seeking to benefit from Kodak's difficult financial position, which will be exacerbated if the debtors cannot obtain fair value for the patents."
Both Apple and Kodak are were already engaged in a legal battle over patents prior to this week. On June 1st, Apple argued that the conflict involves "an array of complex non-bankruptcy issues" that should be addressed in a federal district court, rather than bankruptcy court. Kodak has been seeking a "rush to judgment," Apple alleges.
The former may be in serious trouble if it can't sell off its patents. While over 20 potential buyers have signed confidentiality agreements, Kodak is currently operating on a $950 million loan contingent on getting money through patent sales. Some buyers could decide to turn away if they feel they won't be able to get core patents in the deal. At present, Kodak's plan is still to auction off IP in early August, and announce a winner on August 13th.