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Kodak says Apple patent moves prevent any end to its misery

Cupertino 'using its substantial cash position to delay'

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Bankrupt photography veteran Eastman Kodak is suing Apple in the US, claiming the fruity firm is trying to interfere with its plans to sell its patent portfolio.

Flogging off its intellectual property is a major part of the company's bankruptcy restructuring but it can't go ahead while Apple is claiming that some of Kodak's patents actually belong to it.

Kodak alleged that Apple is wrongly claiming the right to ten patents, which all came from work the companies did together in the early 90s. Kodak says it's been licensing and litigating the patents in question for years and Apple never said a word until it went into bankruptcy proceedings. The photo firm also alleges that Apple is the "single largest infringer" of the patents.

Just to add to the confusion, former Apple subsidiary FlashPoint Technology is also claiming ownership of the same ten patents, which it says it got before it was spun off from the fruity firm in 1996.

The allegations stem from a time when Kodak worked with Apple on digital camera technology between 1992 and 1994. According to Kodak, the firms signed an agreement back then that they'd both hang onto their own intellectual property. The photo firm claims that Apple's legal machinations are nothing but an attempt to hold up its restructuring.

"Apple’s strategy has been to use its substantial cash position to delay as long as possible the payment of royalties to Kodak, and to interfere with the Debtors’ planned sale of the Digital Capture Portfolio," the filing said. "Apple and FlashPoint are seeking to benefit from Kodak’s difficult financial position, which will be exacerbated if the Debtors cannot obtain fair value for the patents in the Digital Capture Portfolio."

The International Trade Commission has already investigated one of the disputed patents and rejected Apple's ownership claim. Nevertheless, Apple is trying to get the patent argument moved out of Bankruptcy Court and into a District Court as a normal patent court case. Kodak claims this as another delaying tactic, since an ordinary patent lawsuit can take years to sort out.

The camera company wants the bankruptcy court to rule on the patents and quickly so that it can get on with its sale and is also seeking whatever damages the court might think it's entitled to. Apple has yet to respond to the filing. ®

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