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Kodak battles smartphones over camera technology

Jennifer Collins Jun 22, 2011
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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The International Trade Commission is expected to rule tomorrow on a patent dispute. The argument involves Apple, Blackberry and Kodak — which owns a photo-previewing patent.

As Marketplace’s Jennifer Collins reports, there could be big developments from this one.


JENNIFER COLLINS: If you have a smartphone you’ve probably used the camera.

COLLINS: OK, I’m zeroing in on the tree outside my office window. OK, here we go. Take the photo.

That grainy preview that shows up before you take the picture. Kodak holds a patent for that process. Kodak claims Apple and Blackberry maker RIM are using its technology without paying for it. Dan Ravicher is the executive director of the Public Patent Foundation.

DAN RAVICHER: You can get patents on very small components of products. So your typical cell phone could be covered by hundreds if not thousands of patents.

Law professor Jack Lerner says the technology has become standard on cellphones with cameras.

JACK LERNER: They need the technology to make a competitive phone.

Lerner says companies sometimes try to sneak by without paying the licensing fees. For Apple and Blackberry — with millions of phones on the market — it makes more sense to invest in good lawyers.

LERNER: It can cost anywhere from $3- to $5 million to fight an average patent. But these companies are looking at hundreds of millions of dollars in licensing fees. So it makes sense to fight this as much as you can.

The International Trade Commission could prevent Apple and RIM from importing phones that are assembled overseas. Attorney Paul Ackerman with Dorsey and Whitney says Kodak had a lot at stake.

PAUL ACKERMAN: I think this intellectual property revenue is absolutely critical to the continued business model.

Kodak could gain another $1 billion.

I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

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