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Apple and Google go head-to-head over Kodak patent sale

Tech firms draw battle lines in IP auction

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Apple and Google have joined rival investor groups hoping to bag Kodak's 1,100-strong patent portfolio. The groups are offering warm-up bids of between $150m and $250m – though Kodak reckons the patents could eventually haul in up to $2.6bn.

Apple is part of a group that includes Microsoft and patent aggregation firm Intellectual Ventures Management, the Wall Street Journal heard from sources. The competing group has Google, Samsung, LG and HTC in it as well as patent firm RPX. Both lots started their bidding last week.

Already facing each other, indirectly, in the various patent battles sprawled across the globe, the fruity firm and the Chocolate Factory are going head-to-head to seize the digital imaging portfolio from bankrupt Kodak, which includes patents Apple has already tried to claim it owns.

The companies squared up last year over the auction from Nortel Networks, with an Apple and Microsoft group bagging the portfolio with a winning bid of $4.5bn.

Patent sales like this are big business, enough so that Kodak hopes the sale could help it dig its way out of the red and into being a printer company. The firm has said it reckons the portfolio on the auction block could be worth up to $2.6bn.

Bids normally start small to show interest and draw out the competition before the serious negotiations start.

Kodak's digital capture patents are the ones the smartphone and tablet makers are after, because the technology is also used to snap pics on mobile devices.

The patent aggregation firms have joined the consortia to bag intellectual property – which they can later charge other firms for using, bagging licensing fees or even court damages.

The auction is set for tomorrow. ®

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