Oh, Snap: Kodak Says Apple Is Just Playing Spoiler With Patent Claim
Hostilities are escalating in Kodak’s patent spat with Apple. Earlier this week, the photography pioneer accused Apple of attempting to undermine the sale of its patent portfolio in a bid to avoid paying the more than $1 billion in patent-infringement damages and royalties Kodak claims it is owed.
At issue here is a patent covering the ability for a digital camera to preview images on an LCD screen. Apple sued Kodak over the technology, claiming that Kodak “misappropriated” it when the two companies were working together years ago. Kodak — which filed for bankruptcy in January and is looking to sell off this patent, along with a host of others, to pay off its creditors — insists that Apple’s ownership claim is “baseless.” And now it’s arguing that Apple’s intent, by alleging misappropriation, is simply to avoid paying royalty payments on it, or to drive the patent’s value down so it can purchase it at a lower price.
“Apple’s decision to press its ownership claims now … should be seen for what it is, namely, a ploy calculated to prevent the debtors from using the [bankruptcy] sale process to obtain a fair price for Kodak’s digital capture portfolio (or to enable Apple to buy it on the cheap and extinguish its infringement exposure),” Kodak said in court documents filed earlier this week, adding that Apple’s ownership claim has already been “squarely rejected” by an International Trade Commission judge.
And, to some extent, it does have a point. Apple didn’t file suit against Kodak until nine years after the patent was first issued, and decades after the two companies worked together on exploring how best to commercialize Apple’s digital camera technologies.
But then, Kodak didn’t sue Apple until 2010, amid the collapse of its finances and a looming Chapter 11 filing. So if Apple’s decision to press ownership claims nine years after the fact is a ploy, then what is Kodak’s decision to assert this patent against Apple a year ealier? A ploy to drive up the patent’s price in advance of a sale?
Just another business negotiation being carried out in the courts …