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Kodak's using bankruptcy to rob us of our rights – Apple

Ah, the old go-bust-and-die ploy, eh?

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Apple has hit back at Kodak's attempts to get the firms' patent issues sorted out in bankruptcy court, filing a motion in district court asking the judge to move the row there.

Kodak has accused Apple of "frivolous" claims to its patents, saying that Cupertino's only purpose is to delay the camera company's sale of those patents as part of its bankruptcy proceedings.

The fruity firm responded today with its own new filing, alleging that Kodak is just trying to use the bankruptcy court to gallop through the patent proceedings – which Apple claims had already started before Kodak went bust.

Kodak has said that Apple is only interested in the 10 patents in question, which are part of a "digital-capture" portfolio of over 700 patents, now that the firm is on the ropes financially. The firm said that Apple was trying to use its deep pockets to litigate Kodak all the way out of its bankruptcy agreements, which include selling off its IP.

Apple claims the patent dispute started in 2010, two years before Kodak sank into the red, and the camera company is trying to use its bankruptcy to give Apple's rights "short shrift".

"To facilitate their sale (along with over a thousand other patents) as part of its Bankruptcy proceedings, Kodak seeks to quickly extinguish Apple’s interests in the disputed patents, without a fair process and in a tribunal lacking experience with patent disputes," the iPhone-maker said in its filing. "While Apple is amenable to a reasonably-expedited proceeding to resolve this dispute, it is entitled to have these issues properly adjudicated in an appropriate forum."

Apple says that the bankruptcy court doesn't have the expertise necessary to hear a patent case and even if it did, it's not legally entitled to do so, because the litigation started before Kodak was circling the drain.

The bankruptcy court also requires all parties to agree before it is allowed to use a jury, and a jury is needed to hear damages and contract claims. Since Apple won't be consenting to a jury, it says the case needs to move to the district court so that it can be properly heard.

All the fuss is over 10 patents developed back in the '90s when Apple and Kodak were collaborating. Kodak says the ideas were its own and that it had every right to hang onto them, while Apple says Kodak patented the ideas behind its back, and claims they were actually technologies that the fruity firm had shown Kodak when the two companies were working together.

Both Apple and Kodak are claiming to have triumphed in an International Trade Commission decision on one of the patents and are equally strident in their ownership claims.

But the clock is ticking for Kodak, which needs to get some money in its coffers under the terms of its bankruptcy. Apple is alleging that urgency has led to Kodak's attempts to trample all over it.

"Instead of litigating its claims against Apple in an appropriate forum, Kodak is trying to strip Apple of its rights in the disputed patents through a rushed proceeding in the Bankruptcy Court that would afford Apple much less in the way of discovery and due process," Apple complained.

"To make matters worse, Kodak is trying to enjoin Apple from asserting any claim to ownership of the disputed patents, lest this 'create uncertainty' that would discourage potential bidders."

Kodak had been planning the patent sale for July and August and expected to announce a winning bidder on 13 August. ®

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