ITC Reviews Kodak’s Patent Case against Apple & RIM

by Matt Klassen on March 28, 2011

With cameras increasingly becoming an integral part of our mobile experience it was just a matter of time, in my mind at least, before we saw imaging and photography companies actively trying to cut themselves a slice of the lucrative mobile profits pie.

But aside from potentially reaching agreements with mobile companies to include name brand camera and video equipment in mobile devices—a move that mobile companies have avoided due to the prospect of shared profits—there really hasn’t been any room for imaging and photography specialist companies to find any sort of direct route into the market, so many, like Kodak, are looking at more indirect routes.

While I have to say that I’m surprised that some industrious and innovative mobile manufacturer hasn’t tapped the likes of Kodak to advance the field of mobile imaging technology, Kodak has turned to its intellectual property to make it some money in the mobile market…by suing Apple and Research in Motion over patent infringement.

It’s hard to call Kodak a patent troll, as the company clearly has a lot to offer the world with its array of advanced and easy-to-use imaging and photography equipment. In fact, as an avid international traveller—and amateur photographer—I have long given Kodak the job of preserving some of my most beloved memories.

But by the strict definition of a patent troll, an individual or company that generates profits solely from patenting its (or others) intellectual property and suing others for infringement, it seems that Kodak, in the mobile world at least, clearly fits the bill.

The patent infringement case itself was filed early last year, with Kodak claiming that both Apple and Research in Motion were unlawfully using Kodak’s patented image previewing technology on their mobile devices. While the case fritted around in the lower courts ultimately leading to Kodak losing the case, yesterday a report issued by Reuters revealed that the International Trade Commission (ITC) would now review the case.

So what’s at stake for Kodak? Even as a leader the digital imaging and photography market, Kodak depends on its intellectual property to generate a significant portion of its profits. In fact, after several successful patent litigation battles over the past couple years Kodak has compiled itself a tidy sum off settlements and licensing profits, with the patent in this ITC case reportedly already earning Kodak $964 million dollars over the past few years.

In the end, this, as with almost all patent infringement cases, has little to no impact on the average consumer. At worst, Apple and RIM will be found guilty of patent infringement and have to pay Kodak for the privilege of using its patented camera technology. At best, Apple and RIM are still found guilty and realize that there may just be a market for the sort advanced mobile imaging technology Kodak could bring to the table.

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