updated 11:36 pm EDT, Sat July 21, 2012
Patent declared an 'obvious variant' of previous work
Eastman Kokak has failed to win an appeal with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) against RIM and Apple regarding digital image preview technology. The ITC agreed with the ruling judge that neither Apple nor RIM violated the patent in any products, as the original patent was clearly a derivative of prior work. The specific reasoning for the appeal refusal will be released once all sides have redacted confidential information.
The lawsuit was an attempt by Kodak to force Apple and RIM to pay licensing fees, and thus enhance Kodak's patent portfolio that will shortly be on the auction block. During the trial, Kodak claimed to have generated more than $3 billion by licensing the patent to users such as Samsung, LG, Motorola Mobile, and Nokia, and claimed that Apple alone owed more than $1 billion in past-due royalties.
The battle has been waging for two and a half years, longer than most ITC cases. The original complaint was filed in January 2010, and has continued longer than the typical case because the original judge retired shortly after the ITC told him to reconsider some of his findings. Proceedings were delayed until a new judge was assigned.
Apple and RIM have both denied infringing the patent, and challenged its validity based on prior art. ITC Judge Thomas Pender said the Kodak patent was invalid because it was an obvious variation of others' earlier work related to image processing. The judge added that were the patent valid, the iPhone 3G and all of RIM's BlackBerry phones would be infringing, while the iPhone 3Gs and iPhone 4 would not be.
Kodak has another case against Apple at the ITC involving a different batch of patents, scheduled to go to trial in February 2013. Apple previously attempted to block the bankruptcy sale of Kodak's 1,100 patents, claiming that Apple's spinoff FlashPoint was the true owner. FlashPoint and Kodak collaborated in the 90s on Apple's QuickTake line of cameras.