Apple Defeat Could Hit Kodak HARD

Eastman Kodak has lost its patent case related to digital image preview technology against Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), which could hurt the company’s efforts in selling its intellectual property portfolio. The U.S. International Trade Commission upheld a judge’s earlier findings that ruled Kodak’s patent claim was invalid because it was an obvious variation of earlier work by others.

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“The investigation is thus terminated,” the agency said. Kodak said it will appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.

Kodak, which sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, had demanded Apple and RIM pay it licensing fees that totaled more than $1 billion for the technology. It said it had already generated more than $3 billion by licensing the digital-imaging patents to other users, including Samsung, LG Electronics, and Nokia (NYSE:NOK). Last month, Kodak won bankruptcy court permission to sell more than 1,100 digital imaging patents, roughly one-tenth of its patent portfolio, to help repay creditors.

The patent’s validity “has been upheld in previous litigation at the I.T.C., and was affirmed by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office,” Kodak spokesman Chris Veronda said in a statement. “We are confident that its validity will ultimately be upheld.”

Apple and RIM had both denied infringement and challenged the patent’s validity. Apple has claimed it is the right owner of the image-preview patent as well as several other Kodak patents because of an earlier research agreement between the companies.

Kodak first filed the case in January 2010, but the dispute has dragged on for about 30 months, almost twice as long as a typical trade commission case, because the original judge retired.

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