Kodak to Apple: Bring It On!

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I have personally never watched the film Not Another Teen Movie -- and somehow I consider myself lucky for that. However, that didn't prevent the commercial previews from being forever seared, unwillingly, into my brain.

"You better bring it!"

"Oh, it's already been broughten!"

That's sort of like what's going in right now between Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) and Eastman Kodak (OTC: EKDKQ), which are squabbling like schoolchildren over patent claims.

If you recall, on the day following Valentine's Day, Apple sought the permission of an N.Y. bankruptcy judge to sue the already bankrupt Kodak over what it deemed copyright infringement. Specifically, Apple is alleging that Kodak used its technology in its printers, digital cameras, and digital picture frames.

This lawsuit comes after Kodak's waterfall-like stream of lawsuits that it served on the technology sector over the past couple of years. In that time, Kodak has sued Research In Motion over preview-imaging patents, as well as HTC, Fujifilm, and Samsung over image-transmitting patents it feels are being infringed upon. Apple was also a party to both of these lawsuits.

Kodak recently announced that it would completely exit the digital camera market which it helped found, and it's hoping to get top dollar for its patent portfolio to aid in the company's reorganization from bankruptcy. This potential lawsuit from Apple isn't helping Kodak's effort to sell its patents one bit.

So with that being said, on Friday Kodak fired back at Apple and asked the N.Y. bankruptcy court for permission to examine "the basis" of Apple's claims against the company. Kodak is asking Apple to produce all documents and communications that would clearly establish it, and not Kodak, as the clear owner of the patents in question.

Oh, snap! Take that, Apple! But you didn't think the drama would end there, did you?

Apple has claimed that it developed a digital camera in the early 1990s. Apple's claim was that it then shared the camera with Kodak and that Kodak then sought to patent the technology. Kodak has denied the claim thus far.

In your face, Kodak!

This has all of the makings of a schoolyard brawl that needs to be broken up by an adult. All of this bickering appears to be nothing more than years of animosity building up on Apple's part from being sued by Kodak. With Kodak now in bankruptcy, Apple is ready to get in its final blow, which may not be a victory so much as a weakening in value of Kodak's patent portfolio.

It remains to be seen who the primary bidders might be on that portfolio, but I can assure you that Apple remains a possibility, along with the struggling Sony, which could use any form of guaranteed cash flow it can get right now. What I do know is this: It's going to take a lot more than the perhaps $50 million in royalties Kodak could earn by licensing some of its cinematic patents to IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX  ) . Either way, I can't wait to see how this made-for-TV drama continues to play out.

Who do you think will come out as the winner of this squabble? Share your opinion in the comments section below with your fellow Fools.

While Apple and Kodak are busy duking it out, I suggest you get your copy of your latest special report, "3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution." Find out which three companies our analysts think are flying under investors' radars. Best of all, you can do so right now for free!

Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He would rather watch this drama unfold than The Young and the Restless. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and IMAX, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that only brings transparency to the table.


Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2012, at 3:11 PM, Jacobsonjk wrote:

    Why doesn't Apple simply institute a hostile takeover of Kodak. Kodak isn't even worth 100 million dollars. Apple makes that in 5 minutes.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2012, at 4:47 PM, Red777aetrof wrote:

    it doesnt sound like you are very informed. IMAX's exclusive license from Kodak on the laser engine for digital projection has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the digital imaging portfolio that Kodak is trying to sell. When it is "exclusively licensed", it in fact is essentially "sold" to IMAX on an earn-out basis.

    The Apple claim of co-inventorship on the '218 patent (the "preview patent") was thrown out by the ITC as "without merit" in the current patent fight between Apple and Kodak before the ITC.

    Sony is already a cross-licensee of Kodak for digital imaging and hasn't to date been dragged into the smartphone wars against Apple because its Sony-Ericsson (now Sony only) handsets have so miniscule market share that it is not even relevant enough in smart phones for anyone to sue them.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2012, at 5:34 PM, geekdadnyc wrote:

    It was called the Apple QuickTake -- a big, cumbersome, 1/4 VGA res, awesome digital camera that we used in our high school newspaper. I graduated High School in 1989, so it was more like "late eighties" than "early nineties."

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2012, at 8:41 PM, FM5 wrote:

    kodak will win this, thay made the first digital camera, and thats whats in the i phone, Apples

    out of luck on this one, thay just want to kick a small guy when his down

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2012, at 11:00 PM, pstonebridge wrote:

    Kodak is going bankrupt, Apple has $100 billion in the bank. Obviously Apple will win. This is all just posturing in order to negotiate a price for Apple to pay for any relevant patents Kodak might own.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2012, at 9:17 AM, mattman10987 wrote:

    The first QuickTake 100 came out in 1994, the cameras that were out before that (in your 1989 timeframe) might have been Zap Shot, Dycam, Fotoman, or Mavica. I was working at Kodak on the professional DCS cameras (the DCS200 had just come out and we were prepping for the NC-200 and DCS-420) and I remember when QuickTake came along to compete for resources. Definitely not 1989.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2012, at 1:23 PM, d71180 wrote:
  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2012, at 8:35 PM, eldetorre wrote:

    It is just sad that a genuine innovator like Kodak has been screwed by everyone including its executives. Apple's specious claims just add insult to injury.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2012, at 8:44 PM, SUPERMANSTOCKS wrote:

    I have an idea why doesnt Apple just buy Eastman Kodak? It would be a good fit in many ways

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