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Kodak wins round in Apple patent brawl

One down, $1 billion to go

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Struggling photo pioneer Eastman Kodak has won an important round in its long-running patent disputes with Apple.

An International Trade Commission judge has ruled that Kodak was not violating two of the patents that Apple claimed it was infringing, and that a third patent isn't valid, according to a report by Bloomberg on Friday.

"We're pleased by today's ruling and we are looking forward to the full ITC commission's ruling in our case against Apple and RIM, which is expected in late June," a Kodak spokesman said in a statement.

The complaints against Apple and RIM to which Kodak's spokesman referred were filed with the ITC in January 2010, and charge the two companies with violating Kodak patents for image previewing and processing.

Kodak lost the first round in that dispute, but – as is apparent from the spokesman's comments – the company has high hopes for a reversal by the full ITC panel in its review of the matter, which was granted in late March of this year.

Despite Kodak's latest victory, however, Apple's ITC complaint against them – 337-TA-717 – has not yet been fully laid to rest: a six-judge ITC panel will review Judge Robert Rogers' decision this September.

The two Apple patents that Rogers ruled Kodak had not violated were patent number 6,031,964, "System and method for using a unified memory architecture to implement a digital camera device", and number RE38,911, "Modular digital image processing via an image processing chain with modifiable parameter controls".

The complaint that Kodak filed against Apple and RIM, and which is still pending, could be a gold mine for Kodak if the ITC rules in its favor. Should that happen, the ITC could rule that those two companies could not import infringing products into the US without paying licensing fees – which, according to Kodak chairman and CEO Antonio Perez, could amount to as much as $1bn.

In a rather understated observation, Perez said: "This is a lot of money, big money." ®

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