Kodak sues HTC, Apple over patent infringement

The two smartphone and tablet vendors are infringing on its digital imaging technology, the company alleges

Struggling Eastman Kodak is alleging that Apple's and HTC's smartphones and tablets infringe on its digital imaging technology, and has filed a complaint and lawsuits with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, it said on Tuesday.

The complaint to the ITC claims that some of Apple's iPhones, iPads, and iPods, and HTC's smartphones and tablets, infringe Kodak patents related to technology for transmitting images.

Kodak also alleges that HTC's smartphones infringe on a patent related to a method for previewing images, which is already the subject of pending actions against Apple.

Separately, Kodak also filed suits against Apple and HTC in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York alleging the same infringement, it said.

Four patents are the basis for Kodak's actions, including one for "automatically transmitting images from an electronic camera to a service provider using a network configuration file" and another patent for "capturing digital images to be transferred to an email address."

Kodak wants the ITC to stop the import of products that infringe on its patents, and has asked the District Court to stop Apple and HTC from infringing on the patents and award it damages.

Kodak has had numerous discussions with both companies in an attempt to resolve this issue, but has failed to reach an agreement, it said. The company's goal isn't to disrupt the availability of Apple's and HTC's products, but to get "fair compensation for the unauthorized use" of its technology, it said.

An HTC spokeswoman declined to comment until the company had reviewed the complaint. Apple didn't answer a request for a comment.

Kodak has already licensed patents related to its digital imaging technology to more than 30 companies, including LG Electronics, Motorola, Samsung Electronics and Nokia, it said.

The company is also using the technology in its own products, including two new cameras that were launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Toward the end of last year, Kodak lowered projections for its full-year revenue and year-end cash balance, and on Jan. 3 warned that it could face delisting from the New York Stock Exchange, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company has warned that performance this year will depend on it selling its digital imaging patents to raise cash for future investments, and there have been reports that the company is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection.

In this age of intellectual property lawsuits, patents have proven to be a very valuable commodity. For example, last year, Nortel sold 6,000 patents and patent applications for US$4.5 billion to a consortium consisting of Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion and Sony, following a bidding war with Google, which later made a $12.5 billion bid to buy Motorola Mobility. The reasoning behind that deal is in part to better protect Android from patent lawsuits.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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