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Apple Seeks Court Permission To Sue Kodak For Patent Infringement 193

Posted by samzenpus
from the picking-through-the-bones dept.
First time accepted submitter yankexpat writes "The patent battles in the mobile communications space have taken another turn, as Apple has asked a court for permission to sue the bankrupt Kodak for patent infringement. From the article: 'Apple Inc. asked a bankruptcy judge for permission to sue Eastman Kodak Co. over allegations it’s infringing patents that Apple says cover technologies used in printers, digital cameras and digital picture frames. Apple said in a filing yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York that it intends to file a complaint against Kodak at the International Trade Commission and a corresponding suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan based on patent-infringement claims. The suit will seek an order blocking Kodak’s infringement, according to the filing.'"
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Apple Seeks Court Permission To Sue Kodak For Patent Infringement

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  • by Dupple (1016592) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:13PM (#39049251)

    What's happening is that while Kodak has filed for bankruptcy, they are still working on selling its portfolio of something around 1,100 patents.

    So, whoever ends up with those patents will get the legal agreements that come with them, which is why Apple is continuing to try and get court decisions in their favour.

    Most likey I'd imagine that Apple Microsoft and may be RIM will join forces again (as in the Nortel acquisition) and try and scoop the lot. (RIM are also being sued by Kodak at the moment)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:16PM (#39049333)

      Looks more like Apple wants to be a creditor when Kodak finally folds up, and be paid in patents.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:21PM (#39049449)

      Why is selling patents even legal? The original creator of a patent deserves to be rewarded so that the can come up with more original ideas, but why should someone who has potentially created nothing be rewarded? The creator can license the patent to anyone, so shouldn't need to sell it.

      • by afidel (530433) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:32PM (#39049749)
        Because some organizations will pay significantly more for exclusive rights to the patent and the easiest way to acquire those rights is to buy the patent. The patent is the inventors property so why shouldn't they have the right to sell it? I have infinitely more problems with software and business method patents as a class than I do with the rights of the holder to transfer their property.
        • by JeanCroix (99825) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:35PM (#39049801) Journal
          Patents are no more property than an idea is property. They are government-granted privileges, like a drivers license.
          • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

            by UnknownSoldier (67820)

            > They are government-granted privileges, like a drivers license.

            Which is in contradistinction to your "Right To Travel." Government granted privileges come from the power of the people.

            e.g.
            "Heretofore the court has held, and we think correctly, that while a Citizen has the Right to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, that Right does not extend to the use of the highways, either in whole or in part, as a place of business for private gain." Barney vs. Board of Railroad

          • Okay, so we'll stop calling it a "sale" and instead, we'll enter an irrevocable "license" agreement for the patent to a separate entity, with exclusive rights to use and relicense said patent to other entities; for a one-time monetary payment and the contractual obligation to defend the patent legally.

            Happy? It's no longer being sold, though every single use of patent ownership is being transferred.

      • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:45PM (#39050059)

        Why is selling patents even legal? The original creator of a patent deserves to be rewarded so that the can come up with more original ideas, but why should someone who has potentially created nothing be rewarded? The creator can license the patent to anyone, so shouldn't need to sell it.

        Licensing can work, however it is the original inventor's choice and some prefer to just sell.
        (1) Licensing requires an ongoing relationship and probably periodic payments.
        (2) It also requires that the original inventor assume some risk in that the invention remains desirable and the inventor retains licensees.
        (3) The original inventor is also still on the hook for any legal issues and costs.

        An original inventor may prefer one lump sum payment and be done with it and move on to the next big idea without any distractions, risks or liabilities. Also some buyers prefer to own rather than license. If licensing is the only option the number of buyers is reduced, this may lower the value of the invention.

        • by xeromist (443780) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @04:04PM (#39050517)

          None of that sounds like a problem. So what if they would prefer to sell it? Tough luck IMO. Pay someone to manage your licenses if it becomes an undo burden. Remember that the purpose of patents is to provide protection so that people will be able to bring their ideas to realization without someone stealing it. Making patents non-transferable doesn't undo that but it could sure fix a lot of what's wrong with the patent system as it stands.

          • I suppose that an exclusive license with the right to sublicense would be right out then, too? Because the difference that makes no difference is no difference.

            The purpose of patents is not to allow people to productize their own ideas, it's to incentivize people to a) invent, and b) not try to hide their invention so that it becomes available to all, eventually.

            One way to incentivize inventors is to allow them to sell their patents.

            • by xeromist (443780)

              Not necessarily. A license, even exclusive, doesn't grant you everything that ownership does. For one, it doesn't grant you carte blanche use of that patent as a weapon.

              I didn't say that people had to produce their own ideas personally. In many cases that's just not practical. But I would argue that the ability to profit from the license of your idea is incentive enough. I don't see why the patent system needs to go any further than that to work as intended.

              And yes I understand that the ability to sell and

              • Not necessarily. A license, even exclusive, doesn't grant you everything that ownership does. For one, it doesn't grant you carte blanche use of that patent as a weapon.

                Actually, an exclusive license, with the right to sublicense and the right to bring suit in the name of the owner is effectively the same thing as an assignment, legally.

          • by perpenso (1613749)

            None of that sounds like a problem.

            Remaining on the hook for any legal problems and the associated legal bills does not sound like a problem to you?

            Carrying a risk that a competitive or disruptive product will appear and make that invention unappealing and losing those licensees does not sound like a problem to you?

            • by xeromist (443780)

              If you have an idea and someone else licenses it and implements it then there's no reason you should have any legal problems since you weren't involved. If you do then that is a problem with the legal system, not the patent system. Now, if you are the one that implements it then yes you should assume all relevant liabilities just like any other person or corporation marketing something.

              I'm sorry, someone came up with a better idea without infringing on yours? That's life. You're not entitled to profit from

              • by perpenso (1613749)

                If you have an idea and someone else licenses it and implements it then there's no reason you should have any legal problems since you weren't involved.

                Wow, that is a quite gratuitous assumption. :-) I am sure a host of trial lawyers have a quite different opinion.

                If you do then that is a problem with the legal system, not the patent system.

                So you are no longer claiming that no problem exists, rather you are claiming that there is a problem but it is in the legal system. Perhaps you now can see why an inventor legitimately wants to sell and move on, to avoid the problematic legal system, to let the experts in the corp buying his patent navigate those waters.

                I'm sorry, someone came up with a better idea without infringing on yours? That's life.

                No, that is why you want to sell not license. Does the original inventor nee

                • by xeromist (443780)

                  So you are no longer claiming that no problem exists, rather you are claiming that there is a problem but it is in the legal system. Perhaps you now can see why an inventor legitimately wants to sell and move on, to avoid the problematic legal system, to let the experts in the corp buying his patent navigate those waters.

                  I've no idea what the legalities of licensing an idea are. What I am saying is that there is no legitimate reason I can think of why someone should be able to sue you solely for having an idea. The solution is to make sure you can't be sued for an idea, not force you to sell off your idea out of fear. If removing the option to sell a patent introduces significant risk due to a problematic legal system then obviously that can't be ignored and there should be corresponding efforts to mitigate or eliminate tha

          • Making patents non-transferable ... could sure fix a lot of what's wrong with the patent system as it stands.

            No. You don't seem to understand the true nature of the problem with the US patent system. It is *not* that patents are transferable. It is that patents are being issued for things that are too obvious, that should not be patentable. If the standards for issuing patents were cleaned up and only non-obvious things were awarded patents then patent trolls would not have the "mine field" that they currently have. Basically you seem to be focusing on the symptom not the disease, that is more likely to yield nega

            • by xeromist (443780)

              I agree that obviousness is a big problem and I agree that it needs to be fixed but that is only one of many problems. If you believe that cleaning up standards will magically fix everything, I say that is a bit naive. The ability to aggregate (even non-obvious) patents and use them to leverage unrelated business areas because you don't like to play fair will still be a problem.

              I'm coming from the perspective that the patent system should do just enough to encourage people to release their ideas and nothing

              • I agree that obviousness is a big problem and I agree that it needs to be fixed but that is only one of many problems. If you believe that cleaning up standards will magically fix everything, I say that is a bit naive. The ability to aggregate (even non-obvious) patents and use them to leverage unrelated business areas because you don't like to play fair will still be a problem.

                No, it won't. Attempting to use a patent to leverage an unrelated or unpatented product - e.g. selling you a license to my printer patent, provided you agree to only purchase paper from me - is patent misuse, and makes the patent legally unenforceable.

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            There's incentive to kill the inventor by a non-licensee, if the patent suddenly goes public domain upon his death.

        • by Waccoon (1186667)

          (1) Licensing requires an ongoing relationship and probably periodic payments.

          How much are these periodic payments? Given how much money could be up for grabs, I would think this could quickly get too expensive for individual inventors. Periodic payments and a broken industry are rarely an encouraging combination.

          I could feel the effects of such periodic payments when my old bank told me they were charging me a monthly image fee for sending me badly scanned and scaled pictures of each check I wrote. So, they started charging me for digital prints, when previously they mailed me th

      • Why is selling patents even legal? The original creator of a patent deserves to be rewarded...

        If licensing a patent is a reward, why isn't the option of selling it one, too?

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        OK, here is a license: For a one-time payment of $X, I grant you a perpetual royalty-free exclusive license to this patent. You may sub-license on your own terms.

        Is that better? Why shouldn't a patent be able to be sold? It is an asset. If someone else thinks it is valuable, why shouldn't you be allowed to sell it to them? Saying you shouldn't be able to sell a patent is like saying you shouldn't be able to sell any other asset that has increased in value while you possessed it. What did you do to ma

      • by Calos (2281322)

        You've answered your own question.

        You assert that the patent originator deserves to be rewarded to allow them to come up with more original ideas. Seems to me that finding someone to give them a stack of cash is a reward. Perhaps the most appropriate and utilitarian of awards. Not everyone has the capability or desire to see something through to volume manufacture.

        If they couldn't sell the patents - then were would the innovation be? Not being able to benefit from the patent disincentivizes the research,

      • Why is selling patents even legal? The original creator of a patent deserves to be rewarded so that the can come up with more original ideas, but why should someone who has potentially created nothing be rewarded? The creator can license the patent to anyone, so shouldn't need to sell it.

        Patents are not rewards. They're a limited monopoly right given in grudging exchange for public disclosure. Don't disclose, you don't get a patent.

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        The creator can license the patent to anyone, so shouldn't need to sell it.

        It has to be treated as property so that there is a chain of succession. You don't want it to enter the public domain when the inventor dies, or there would be incentive for people to kill the inventor - and inventors of advanced age or ill health wouldn't be able to license their inventions for as much as younger inventors.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:21PM (#39049467)
      Yes, an Apple/Microsoft/RIM consortium will buy up the kodak patents for $2 billion. Google will complain (after opting not to join the consortium) and buy up a third-rate camera company for $20 billion. Dan Lyons will proclaim that was google's end game all along and Apple/Microsoft/RIM just wasted their money.
    • by mr100percent (57156) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:24PM (#39049529) Homepage Journal

      Well, it's more than that. Kodak sued Apple just before filing for bankruptcy. It looks like they were hoping Apple would settle, and Kodak would use the money to stay afloat. That didn't happen, so now Apple is sueing back.

    • by thoughtspace (1444717) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:43PM (#39049999)

      This is where the real bastardry starts. The sad fact is suing Kodak now that it has filed for bankruptcy means the ex-employees who have not been paid out yet will get much-much less. Apple are effectively ensuring the unpaid employees will get virtually nothing.

      I think this is one of the great un-addressed problems with companies. Employees forego future growth for immediate payment (salary). As a result, employees should really be paid first as they did not partake in risk - not last. Even worse, the amount owed to the real people employees is often small by comparison the whole company - but a lot to them!

      • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:47PM (#39050105)

        Because the patent suit Kodak made against Apple first was okay but Apple is now evil for countersuing? Maybe Kodak shouldn't have picked the fight in the first place?

      • by Kalriath (849904)

        You mean your country doesn't consider employees as a first class secured creditor? Wow is that fucked up.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        That would be the governments fault, failure to regulate bankruptcy effectively. In many countries laws stipulate who gets paid first. Typically the receivers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Receivership [wikipedia.org] (otherwise why would they do the job), taxes, employee wages, secured creditors, unsecured creditors (Apple would be un-secured creditor and would not get a cent until everyone else got paid in full). If it doesn't work that way where you live then your government is corrupt.

      • by jrumney (197329)
        Maybe things are different in the US, but in UK bankruptcy law, employee salaries come third in line behind Inland Revenue and secured creditors (ie, bank loans), but ahead of other creditors such as suppliers, customers and patent abusers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:16PM (#39049317)

    Due to the tragic loss of our beloved chairman, Steve Jobs, Apple realizes that we are no longer capable of creating compelling products in the marketplace. As our device sales will start to drop from this point forward, we have decided that we will follow in the footsteps of SCO. Our new business model will be called SUE ALL THE COMPANIES.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Isn't it more like Steve Jobs dying wish was for them to sue all companies? He said he didn't care about the money, he was just upset that he felt people were copying Apple products.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        How dare you try to interpret the words of his most holy Jobs for yourself! Only the pope of Jobsism (current CEO of Apple) may make such interpretations! To do otherwise could lead to irreparable schisms in the church!

    • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:28PM (#39049633)

      Ignoring the fact that Kodak had lately been nothing but a patent troll filing suits against everyone it can in order to boost revenues? They are just getting their comeuppance and they rightfully deserve it.

      • by s-whs (959229)

        They are just getting their comeuppance and they rightfully deserve it.

        'They' (Kodak) are not getting their comeuppance.

        What's important is whether the Kodak lawsuit was justified or not, and this one as well, although it seems Apple just acts more like its name was Wankle (pronounced by someone from China).

        When a company goes bankrupt the money goes to creditors and this lawsuit will eat into that money, effectively fooking everyone over, who may depend on that (I don't know the situation precisel

      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        Whereas Apple never sues anyone?

        Lets face it- all major technology companies have turned into patent trolls in the last decade or two. Apple has categorically attempted to sue every one of its major rivals out of the markets. Microsoft's still tries to extort money out of companies selling products they don't even compete with. Samsung, Motorola, Google- they're all at it too.

        Frankly, a crumbling company like Kodak would have been foolish for not copying the business tactics of their more successful rivals.

    • by jesseck (942036)

      As our device sales will start to drop from this point forward, we have decided that we will follow in the footsteps of SCO.p>

      SCO: Sue Companies Onward!

    • I guess that's what Steve Jobs would have done, he was a total asshole.
  • by noh8rz2 (2538714) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:17PM (#39049345)
    They's climbin in yo boardroom
    snatchin' you IP up!
    So you gotta
    Hide you docs
    Hide you tech
    Hide yo docs
    Hide you tech
    and hide you patents
    Cuz they's suin evebody out here!
  • Get em now! (Score:4, Funny)

    by future assassin (639396) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:21PM (#39049463) Homepage

    Wait they're kicking someone when they are broke and homeless?

  • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:21PM (#39049473)
    Apple demonstrating once again the levels to which it will stoop to gain market advantage. Try innovating, you'll go farther...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by capsteve (4595) *

      kodak has been riding on it's own coattails for years, in both consumer and industrial products.
      remember the disc camera?
      remember the kodak instant camera?
      both were crappy products and were only reactions to others who innovated in those respective markets.

      i was sad to see scitex and creo(venerable names in retouching and printing) eventually absorbed into kodak to be used as a mean of driving their consumable business: film, chemistry, plates, and inks. kodak never improved or innovated industrial graphic

  • by mr100percent (57156) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:26PM (#39049599) Homepage Journal

    The headline is misleading: Kodak first sued Apple just days before filing for bankruptcy. They tried to get an ITC ruling, which would have frozen Apple's sales. It looks like they were hoping Apple would quickly settle, and Kodak would use the money to stay afloat.

    That didn't happen, so now Apple is suing back in retaliation [electronista.com], but before doing that they're asking the court for permission (which isn't necessary).

  • And hoping it coughs up some money.

  • What is the reason of this kind of behavior? Do they want to make a claim on the patentportfolio of Kodak? I wonder what Apple executives would have thought when someone would have started to sue Apple at this point in their past.
    • by sessamoid (165542) on Wednesday February 15, 2012 @03:39PM (#39049891)
      Yes. Apple is making a claim on the patents that Kodak tried to use to sue Apple for. The stem from a joint venture back when Apple introduced the first consumer digital camera and an agreement between the two companies on who owns the IP stemmed from that venture. Apple is claiming that the agreement between the two of them gives Apple the technology they used in that venture, as well as any improvements based upon them. Kodak opened Pandora's box when they sued Apple.
      • by PTBarnum (233319)

        The [lawsuit] stems from a joint venture back when Apple introduced the first consumer digital camera

        Wait, what? I wasn't aware that Apple introduced the first consumer digital camera. What product are you talking about?

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The [lawsuit] stems from a joint venture back when Apple introduced the first consumer digital camera

          Wait, what? I wasn't aware that Apple introduced the first consumer digital camera. What product are you talking about?

          The Quicktake

        • Apple QuickTake 100 was the first digital camera; consumer obviously, it is all that matters today - we don't know or care about the inventor anymore just the corp who releases it to the masses first.

          I knew somebody with an Apple QuickTake 100 and I used it. Expensive junk; but it was all one could get and the others shortly afterwards were no better. A yellow pixel noise was in every photo for years... I don't remember when the digital cameras finally fixed that problem.

  • What better way to squash a competitor or possible competitor? - kick them when they are down -- i.e. bankrupt.. Makes sense to me. A lion will always go after the weaker prey.

    Those who can do..
    Those who can't sue..
    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Yes, especially if that weaker prey sues the lion in an attempt to force a quick settlement to stave off bankruptcy. Now Kodak has rocked the boat and dragged up the QuickTake again, Apple is countersuing.

  • It wants to stick it to them up the arese when they are lying face down.

That does not compute.

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