Eastman Kodak lost a patent case against Apple and Research in Motion on Friday, dealing a big blow to the bankrupt imaging company’s efforts to raise money by selling off its intellectual property.
Kodak filed a complaint against the iPhone and BlackBerry makers at the U.S. International Trade Commission in early 2010, saying their devices infringed on its patent for previewing images with a digital camera. Late Friday, the commission dismissed the complaint, upholding a finding by one of its judges that the patent was invalid.
The commission concluded that neither Apple nor RIM had violated trade laws that would have led to an injunction to halt the import of their products. The patent at issue was one of the most valuable Kodak holds, so the ruling raises questions about how much money the company, now in the throes of Chapter 11, can raise from their auction, which is expected to conclude next month.
Kodak said it would appeal the ruling, as the validity of its patent had previously been upheld. RIM said it welcomed the decision, no comment was forthcoming from Apple.
The patent in question covers the way digital cameras preview images in a viewfinder. It is just one of 1,100 patents the company hopes to sell in the bankruptcy court auction. The patent has been the most lucrative in recent years for Kodak, as it sought to obtain licensing fees from smartphone manufacturers, and is thought to be among those patents of most interest to potential bidders.
The patent has been crucial to Kodak’s strategy of using intellectual-property suits to fund the development of new consumer and commercial printers as their film business declined. Kodak has signed licenses for the technology with 32 companies. Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics, Inc. alone have paid almost $1 billion to Kodak for the licenses.
“The ones that have been litigated are the most valuable ones,” Kodak Chief Executive Antonio Perez said in an interview last year.
Kodak announced plans to sell its patents last August, but the firm’s weakened condition caused companies to hold back from bidding.
Without the cash that would have come from such a sale, Kodak was forced to file for Chapter 11 in January of this year.