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ITC rules against Kodak in suit against Apple and RIM

The Eastman Kodak company has lost a significant early round in its patent infringement suit against Apple and RIM over the companies’ camera-equipped smartphones: the U.S. International Trade Commission has issued a preliminary finding that smartphones from Apple and RIM do not violate a 2001 Kodak patent covering digital image previews. The preliminary ruling was made by an ITC administrative law judge; the ITC’s final decision should come May 23, when the full six-member panel either upholds or reverses the preliminary finding.

Kodak launched the suit against Apple and RIM roughly a year ago, saying it had been in discussions with both companies about the patent but had been unable to reach an agreement with either.

Kodak remains confident that it will prevail in the case, despite the preliminary finding.

“The ALJ’s recommendation represents a preliminary step in a process that we are extremely confident will conclude in Kodak’s favor,” said Kodak general counsel Laura G. Quatela, in a statement. “This very same Kodak patent was upheld by a different ALJ at the ITC in our case against LG and Samsung, whose products use the very same Kodak technology to function in the very same manner as similar products from Apple and RIM.”

Kodak sued LG and Samsung over imaging patents back in 2008. The company settled with Samsung and worked out an arrangement with LG as part of selling its OLED business in deals reported to total up to almost $1 billion. Kodak notes that other smartphone and technology companies have licensed the patent to numerous other companies, including Panasonic, Motorola, Nokia, Olympus, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony, and Sony Ericsson.

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