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Judge blocks Apple on two patent claims against Kodak

updated 12:52 am EDT, Fri August 3, 2012

Eight patents remain to be settled, auction going ahead

US Bankruptcy Court Judge Allan Gropper has ruled that Apple does not own two of the 10 imaging patents the company was claiming in a dispute between the iPhone maker and the troubled photography pioneer. Kodak is seeking to auction off some 1,100 digital imaging and other patents in an auction that has technically already begun, while Apple has been trying to stop the sale of now eight patents for which it claims it is the true owner.

Judge Gropper ruled that Apple waited too long to assert any claims of ownership. Apple says Kodak has misappropriated shared technology over the 20 years since the two companies collaborated on the early and influential QuickTake digital camera and related software. Apple has said that its subsidiary FlashPoint Technology is the rightful owner of the eight remaining patents.

Kodak has accused Apple, which has tried repeatedly to stop or delay the auction, of trying to sabotage the sale or lower the price so that it can buy the patents itself. Apple maintains that it is unlawful to auction the patents before ownership of the handful in question has been determined. The company may in fact be preparing to bid on the patents itself, given its strong relationship with photography over the decades -- ironically hastening the death of mismanaged imaging companies like Kodak that failed to embrace the digital photography revolution quickly enough.

The judge ruled that Kodak's ability to sell its portfolio would be hindered if Apple's "unreasonably late claims" were accepted, but denied Kodak's motion for a summary judgement on the other eight patents. The judge rejected both "inventorship" and state law ownership claims by Apple on the two, and ruled against FlashPoint on another motion regarding three other of the disputed patents.

Apple has filed counter-claims in a California court, but in that case Judge George Daniels has stayed the case until New York-based Judge Gropper has ruled. Apple has reportedly joined forced with Microsoft to bid in the auction, in which initial bids are due this week. In a twist, however, the International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled last month that at least one of the patents Apple has lost its claim on is invalid, reinforcing a preliminary finding in May and complicating Kodak's efforts to sell it.

by MacNN Staff



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