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Kodak sues Apple, RIM for alleged patent infringement

Eastman Kodak Co. has filed lawsuits against Apple Inc. and Research In Motion Ltd. alleging patent infringement of its digital imaging technology.

The complaint filed with the United States International Trade Commission claims Apple?s iPhone and RIM?s camera-enabled BlackBerry devices infringe on a Kodak patent that covers technology related to previewing images. Kodak also filed two separate suits against Apple in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York that claim infringement of patents related to digital cameras and computer processes.

"The steps we have taken today are all about fairness,? said David Lanzillo, vice president of communications and public affairs at Kodak, Rochester, NY. ?Kodak has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop an industry-leading patent portfolio.

?Today, about 30 leading global companies recognize the validity of Kodak?s patents and have licensed our technology for use in their products,? he said. ?Apple and RIM products also use Kodak technology and we are simply seeking fair compensation for the use of our technology.

?This is how innovation happens. Unless patents are protected, innovation is stifled."

Kodak is a multinational U.S. corporation that produces imaging and photographic materials and equipment. Long known for its wide range of photographic film products, Kodak is refocusing on two major markets: digital photography and digital printing.

Say cheese
Kodak has licensed digital imaging technology to handset manufacturers such as LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. All of the licenses are royalty-bearing to Kodak.

This is not the first time Kodak has taken on a manufacturer for patent infringement.

Samsung and Kodak recently entered into a licensing agreement, ending their dispute.

On Dec. 17, an ITC Administrative Law Judge issued a ruling declaring that Kodak patent covering color image preview ? patent No. 6,292,218 ? was valid and enforceable and that Samsung?s camera-enabled mobile devices infringed upon that Kodak patent.

In the complaint against Apple and RIM, Kodak is asking the ITC for a limited exclusion order preventing the introduction of infringing devices from the two companies. The devices in question are certain mobile phones and wireless communication devices featuring digital cameras.

In the first suit against Apple in U.S. District Court, Kodak alleges infringement of two patents generally covering image preview and the processing of images of different resolutions.

In the second suit, Kodak is alleging infringement of patents that describe a method by which a computer program can ?ask for help? from another application to carry out certain computer-oriented functions.

The allegations in the second suit apply to any Apple product that uses the processing method.

Camera phone trouble
In both District Court actions against Apple, Kodak is seeking unspecified damages and to permanently enjoin Apple from further infringement.

The patents at issue in the second suit were also the subject of litigation between Kodak and Sun Microsystems Inc.

In the case against Sun Microsystems, a federal jury determined in a 2004 trial that Sun?s Java programming technology infringed on Kodak?s patents.

Kodak settled that suit by agreeing to a payment from Sun in return for a license for the patents at issue.

Harris Wolin, a patents attorney at Myers Wolin LLC, Morristown, NJ, said it is in the best interest of all parties involved to keep products on the market.

?Kodak's track record of success against other major mobile device manufacturers means that the lawsuit or its outcome is unlikely to have much effect on the mobile industry,? Mr. Wolin said. ?Even if the courts were to find Kodak?s related patents are infringed by Apple and/or RIM, both companies would likely license such patents before they succumb to an injunction. 

?Should the courts find in favor of Kodak, the outcome would simply sweeten its bottom line, but it is doubtful that the damages incurred by Apple or RIM in the form of increasing licensing fees or the like would be felt in an appreciable manner by consumers,? he said.