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Apple seeks permission to kick Kodak's corpse

Asks court to allow patent claim against dying photo icon

Apple has asked the New York branch of the US Bankruptcy Court for permission to sue what's left of Kodak, the once-mighty film firm, for patent infringment.

"Apple requests express authority from this court before it initiates the actions out of an abundance of caution," Apple's lawyers wrote somewhat ungrammatically in the court filing, according to Bloomberg.

The mood must be gloomy in the corner offices at Kodak's Rochester, New York headquarters. The company filed for Chapter 11 backruptcy protection less than a month ago, but that hasn't stopped Cupertino's legal team from now going after them for what it alleges are infringements of patents covering printers, digital cameras, and digital picture frames, Bloomberg reports.

What's more, Apple is persuing a parallel action against Kodak at the International Trade Commission, a common strategy that seeks to bar manufacturers from importing infringing products into the US after they have been manufactured abroad.

The ITC, by the way, is where Kodak won a round against Apple last May, after Cupertino had filed a complaint that the now-bankrupt company was violating three of Apple's patents – a ruling that was soon partially reversed, and which is scheduled for final judgement this September.

In another full-employment act for patent lawyers, Kodak also filed a complaint with the ITC last month accusing Apple and HTC of infringing four patents related to image sharing. Bloomberg reports that Apple filed a response that argued that the ITC should not investigate that claim, seeing as how "Kodak will be selling the asserted patents and divesting itself of the parts of its business" that are part of the complaint.

Kodak responded to that argument, in part, by blaming Apple for the fix it's in. "Apple should not be using the bankruptcy to seek to disrupt Kodak's enforcement of its patents," Kodak wrote to the ITC, "given that infringers like Apple, who continue to violate Kodak's intellectual property rights and refuse to properly compensate it, have contributed to Kodak's current circumstances."

And now comes Apple's decision to slip an extra legal shrimp on the barby, Chapter 11 or no Chapter 11, by asking for permission to add to Kodak's grief.

Kodak's shares are hovering around 40¢ on Wednesday; in October 1996 they peaked at $80.25. In October 1996, Apple's stock was at $5.75; at high noon on Wall Street today, it peaked at $510.78. ®

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