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Dying Kodak doesn't have to leave its jewels to Apple, says court

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Failed camera biz Eastman Kodak says it has been given permission by the bankruptcy court to sell patents that Apple claims it owns.

Kodak won approval on Monday to go ahead with a planned auction of 1,100 patents, known as the Digital Capture and Imaging Systems and Services portfolios, the firm said.

"We are gratified that the court has enabled us to move ahead with our patent auction in a timely manner and with clarity on ownership for the winning buyer," Timothy Lynch, top intellectual property officer at Kodak, said in a canned statement.

According to the bankrupt company, it can sell the portfolios "free and clear" of Apple's claims at an auction.

Apple and ex-Apple subsidiary FlashPoint had earlier filed motions with the court to stop the sale, which is expected in early August. Both alleged that they own the same ten patents from the portfolio.

The designs in question were developed during the 1990s when Kodak and Apple were working together, and the fruity firm has claimed ownership of the blueprints. FlashPoint, however, said it bagged the patents from Apple when it ceded from the Cupertino firm.

Kodak said the patents would now be sold in a process overseen by the court and the highest bidder could "obtain an order that protects it against any third-party ownership claims".

Naturally, the hard-up company is saying that Apple and FlashPoint's allegations are totally without merit, but it doesn't matter anyway because it can still offload the portfolio by getting protection from the court. However, Kodak said the court had allowed it to "sell the patents subject to Apple and FlashPoint’s claims, if mutually agreed between Kodak and the winning bidder".

"Today’s ruling provides a court-approved process allowing buyers to acquire the patents free and clear of all ownership allegations, regardless of the status of the dispute with Apple and Flashpoint at the time of closing," Lynch added.

As well as filing its objections in the bankruptcy court, Apple also started a lawsuit in the district court and said that's where patent disputes properly belong. Kodak accused the iPhone-maker of "frivolous" suits that threatened to scupper its bankruptcy proceedings.

The camera company said it will be seeking a dismissal of the district court case in July. Apple had no comment on the decision. ®

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