back to article Kodak strikes at Apple in iPhone, Mac patent dispute

Eastman Kodak has issued lawsuits against both Apple and Blackberry maker Research in Motion, claiming neither of them has licensed its patents despite using the technology described therein and having been warned about it by Kodak. The photography pioneer said the alleged infringement centred on intellectual property protecting …

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Why do these patent cases come along so late?

The iPhone's been on sale for three years, the Blackberry for even longer - and yet Kodak have only just got round to noticing an infringement?

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These things take time.

I suspect, like all these kind of cases, there has been protracted negotiation that has failed. So now they have gone down the lawsuit route.

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Grenade

think about it chap...

Whilst it could be as simple as 'they only just noticed' there are a plethora of other potential reasons why they only sued now...e.g.:

maybe the infringement came with the latest model/firmware/etc from RIM/Iphone

Until a big market is provable for an infringement, why bother suing... hence they wait for the iphone, or whatever, to rack up (even) more sales. So then they can prove value of patent to infringer is high (i.e. sold a lot of devices that incorporated the patented technology), hence losses to them are high, hence damages can be high too.

A patent is for 20 years, with some limitations on time between when infringement begins and the patent owner sues without loss of damages, so why not do things later in the day. In fact it usually means you get more money, as real potential losses have racked up, etc, as opposed to theoretical ones. What you DO NOT want is an early judgement/ settlement level based on certain projected sales levels, and then it turns out it sold 100x more than expected... E.g. even astute contributors to this very website wagered the iphone was going to be a fail... but look what happened there! humble pie eaten (and respect given to him for doing so, and not spinning it in some other way, a la Labour stylee.- we all get things wrong!). I guess this boils down to: do you think they will get more damages (if they win) now, after millions of iphones sold, or on the first day the iphone went on sale? Methinks the former.

Corporations move slowly in these areas at the best of times - they are known to have been in licensing talks with other companies before hand, they are known to have notified apple/RIM about the infringement (which takes time to do, and would have to provide a reasonable time frame to respond/comply), so it is reasonable to assume that they have seen how otehr patent disputes on these matters have gone with the otehr companies before taking on even bigger ones, plus have probably been in a patent licensing dispute with apple/RIMfor months, if not years, which have not gone the way Kodak wanted, so they sue now. It called business tactics. They are long, protracted, and costly.If they weren't, anyone could do them, and the world would be utter chaos.

Patent (indeed any civil litgation requiring a lot of disclosures, etc) cases can take a long time to get going, so maybe this case was started earlier than you think. Just because elReg did not comment on this before, does nto mean it did not exist before today. BTW, yes, a tree falling in a wood that nobody saw fall, still made a noise when doing so!

When pennies are freely available, people get on with picking them up (i.e. in a growing/steady economy, everyone makes hay while the sun shines). When the pennies are tight, everyone starts to take the pennies off one another (i.e. fighting over what revenue there is, is more common in a recession). This is basic human nature, and the reason why humans will wipe each other out over water/food/land/etc when ever it is scarce and in contention.

I shall stop there.

cheers

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Nothing to sue for.

No point in starting a lawsuit if they company being sued has not made any money, or created a large market it wants to keep.

If they sued on day one, they would win very little, and it would be unlikely to settle out of court as there would not be a large user base dependent on the patent.

Still, all this litigation could be avoided if they would just give up on the asinine idea of software patents.

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re: Why do these patent cases come along so late?

If you'd read the whole article, not just the headline you might be able to work it out yourself but how about because 3 years ago Kodak's lawyers had only just finished their case with Sun and were doing the rounds of other infringers, inking those deals with Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola.

Said lawyers then set about the infringers that didn't say "It's a fair cop." and sign deals.

Having resolved those cases with Samsung and LG they went back to the list to see who was next and picked Apple and Lawsuits In Motion.

Give it 12 months or so and someone like Google or HTC will probably be getting a letter through the post.

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Anonymous Coward

You're reading it wrong too.

Read it again yourself.

Eastman Kodak say they have pursued Apple and RIM to take out a licensing agreement for some time and the negotiations have come to nothing. You'll notice that plenty of other mobile companies have paid to license the technology. Apple and RIM have actively refused.

They do not have a shortage of lawyers and could well have chosen to go after RIM and Apple at the same time as other companies. They already had the lawyers on Apple and RIM, but not to sue them but to try to negotiate a licence, you don't think they'd use somebody other than a lawyer to perform licence negotiations do you?

IOW Kodak are using court action as a last resort, unlike most other tech companies these days who use the threat of court action or even court action itself to open negotiations. How many stories have you read in the last few years the story of "Company A sues Company B. Company B says the court papers were the first they had heard of the alleged infringement."?

Top marks to Eastman Kodak for doing it properly.

My personal view is that RIM and Apple are on a hiding to nothing. I'm pretty damned sure that Kodak will be after a hefty settlement, plus costs so far, plus court costs. And Apple and RIM will also have to pay their own costs. In other words doing it this way will cost them a lot more than paying for the licence in the first place. It's very unlikely that Kodak will lose, if there was any real way to contest this there wouldn't be so many companies already paying to license the tech.

Remember how much the Polaroid action cost Kodak? Not only were there damages and costs to pay, but Polaroid refused them a licence so they had to buy back all the cameras and unused films that used Polaroid's technology. I liked it. I got to use a camera for about 18 months and then sell it back to Kodak for the same amount I paid for it.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: You're reading it wrong too.

"Remember how much the Polaroid action cost Kodak? Not only were there damages and costs to pay, but Polaroid refused them a licence so they had to buy back all the cameras and unused films that used Polaroid's technology. I liked it. I got to use a camera for about 18 months and then sell it back to Kodak for the same amount I paid for it."

The payout to Polaroid was about half the money that Kodak had put aside for the action. Most companies when being sued will ring fence a worst case scenario amount and then anything less is seen to them as a win!

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Boffin

Apple, like Google, ...

Apple, like Google, has at the core of their business models stealing others IP with a "catch me if you can" philosophy.

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Issue for BSD?

Apple's stuff doesn't do anything that the BSD its based on doesn't do surely?

If its OSX that is infringing but FreeBSD/Darwin doesn't infringe - what is it that they are doing?

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Kodak's death throes

Is it just me or has Kodak given up all hope of being a product manufacturer, and turning fast into a patent troll?

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@Kodak's death throes

Jesus, people said the same about Nokia when they announced they're suing Apple.

Does defending your IP mean your company is dying? No.

Just like Apple suing Pystar didn't mean Apple was in any 'death throes'

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FAIL

Indeed...

I was thinking the same thing. Although, I suppose when the lawsuits move to the eastern district court in Texas we'll know for sure. LOL

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FAIL

Decent product, proper management deficit

I can't remember how decent the "IP" was supposed to be in the Sun case, but I imagine it's the usual tired hand-waving patent application written up by people who can't be bothered to bring a product to market and demonstrate their superior "skills", eventually brought to market by a bunch of people who never saw the patent in the first place.

And that's where the whole "death throes" thing comes about: competitors (Apple, for example) bring out products people want to use, but instead of using all that special know-how, it's off to the courthouse to sue them for the likes of Nokia and especially Kodak, wanting everyone to believe that they could be selling stuff like hot cakes but they're just too sexy for it.

The only lawsuit that should be going down is the one involving Kodak's shareholders and targeting its management for having taken a giant and turning it into a midget who can't even compete with relative newcomers across a range of business areas that Kodak once dominated, as well as missing out on areas that would have been natural extensions of their turf.

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@james 47

That may be true, but Kodak has been in the longest corporate death throes for years now. I know several former long-time employees and all paint a picture of complacency, arrogance and wilful blindness that beggars belief.

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Anonymous Coward

It's just you

@ Ian Ferguson

Kodak sell an awful lot of digital cameras. They have given up on pro level cameras since they make and sell sensors to some of the best camera manufacturers in the world. Oh and they've just sold their OLED business to concentrate on photography.

Remember Kodak's core business was always film (Kodachrome? Mmmmmmm!) with a nice line in basic cameras. They seem to have realised that in the digital world the same business model can work, except now the film has been replaced by selling staggeringly good sensors to the likes of Leica. Ever compared the output from an S2 with the best the mainstream can offer?

Death throes? Rude health more like.

Maybe you don't know much about business; IP is very important, what's the point in developing something and then letting other people copy it? But you definitely know cock all about the photographic industry.

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Flame

Kodak's strategy

From a previous Kodak campaign (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/03/10/kodak_sues_sony_over_digital/)

"Kodak is moving from its dominant position in film cameras to challenge Sony, which holds the top spot for digital cameras."

Well, given that Sony sensors are appearing in a lot of cameras these days, and that Sony has been quite aggressive in introducing models across the entire spectrum (apart, perhaps, from the top end), we can see how that turned out for Kodak. Maybe Kodak sell a bunch of low-end compacts - reviews of which have been mostly unfavourable in the publications I've been reading - but their competitors seem to think there's more money to be made in cameras where the margins aren't razor-thin to begin with. At least in the camera market, the smart money is on their competitors as usual.

From another shakedown by Kodak (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/10/07/kodak_sun_settle/):

"Kodak's patents were acquired when it purchased Wang Laboratories back in 1997 and covered a broad swath of software calls."

"[A] method for previewing colour images and the processing of images of different resolutions" sounds like software patents to me - dodgy by definition - and hasn't a great deal to do with sensor technology. And when it's stuff acquired from Wang over a decade ago, it isn't really about people discovering or developing new stuff: it's more about patent portfolio trading. Maybe that's your idea of research and development, but it isn't mine, nor is it what most people consider R&D to be.

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Apple Rim and Kodak lawyers in the pub.

Lets do this!

Whos gonna win?

oh you mean which company? who cares. the real winners will be

US as always bwahahahaha!

Great idea lunch is on me next week!

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Megaphone

Pystar =/= Nokia/Kodak

while yes, all three of the cases did involve copywrite infringement (while the pystar case was pretty open and shut in the sense of them violating what all apple users have handed to them in paper to agree to, so to speak).. the dynamics are not. On the one hand, you have a vendor who sells a GUI to only function with a certain blend of hardware, they're mix - they sue another company for building hacks and custom rigs at a percentage of their cost, but still making decent overhead of the hardware (you could build your own for nearly half the cost of the pystar rigs, wiki it.) Pystar started selling something open source, rebranded as its own to emulate EFI and slap the OS on generic equipment. The case here was really more about pystars practices coupled with the question of how legitimate apples rights to their "only use when this logo is present" claims were.

on the other hand, these new patent infringement claims are a little.. vague. We have two companies which are not front runners at the moment, who have after a few years with these products out in the market, vocalized their complaints; quite possiblity after having their wants not resolved behind closed doors. What gets me is that in both these cases, as reported by media at least, the claims to patent rights never seem to get validated. It is quite likely/possible that many of the technologies that apple, RIM, or any major player in the electronics company today, is "borrowing" IPR's from it's competition.. to get caught up and ahead of it. This is what I find makes Kodak, Nokia and the like look like they're fishing for revenue - its not like they're the bottom of the barrel, just not top of the hill - and with their patent claims highly ambiguous by report, any pay outs I think are going to look like a purchased "Shut up."

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Gates Halo

Hey Steve

Change the software.

Not that big of a deal.

Antonio M. Perez

Sent from my iPhone

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Anonymous Coward

Nope

Surely you are aware that it doesn't work like that. Even if they were to change the software on every iPhone in circulation tomorrow Apple would still be liable for the infringement that has already happened.

By your reasoning you could get off a speeding charge by slowing down *after* you passed the speed trap.

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LOL

That is the best comment I've seen in a long time :)

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Paris Hilton

Doh!

You've missed the obvious sarcastic comment - that comment was exactly what Steve Jobs told someone who infringed an Apple patent and Apple sued (can't remember who now, there seems to have been so many lol.)

Now the shoe's on the other foot.

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I'm really confused about patents.

Company A is working on a product. They've been working on it for 6 months and it's just about ready. On Monday they applied for a patent on their work.

At the same time, Company B is working on a similar product. Their boffins come up with a way of achieving what they want and 6 months later they are almost ready. On Tuesday they applied for a patent on their work.

Because the two products are doing the same thing (say it's an LED projector) the patent applications are nigh on identical.

Company A get the patent granted because they filed it first. Company B has to pay Company A to effectively use their own independently developed work.

Am I just being naive?

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As I understand it...

As I understand it, that's about it, but it should be noted that this sort of thing doesn't happen very offen for several reasons: It's unlikely that two companies would indipendantly develop a technology to carry out a certain task in the same way as another, although there may be similarities. Also, more importantly, you wouldn't wait until just before the end of the development cycle to place your patent application, you patent your idea as soon as you can and patent separate aspects of your design along the development cycle.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes

Yes you're being naive.

For a start companies do not file patents after they've got something working, they file patents as soon as the have the idea. Some of these filings are so vague you wouldn't believe it. The idea behind this sort of behaviour is supposedly so that the company can protect the company against losing out on any potential development costs. If you want to see how vague some of them can be go and look at kite related patent applications.

However, I have a suspicion that the reason for these applications is more cynical. Imagine company A hasn't even considered developing a teleport system when they get wind that company B might be working on one. Company A only have a vague idea of how company B might be thinking, but find that company B have made no application for a patent. So company A file a preliminary patent application based on what little they know of the tech in the hopes that they will be able to sue company B when they go to market . Or maybe I'm being as cynical as you are being naive.

In the spirit of the patent system I don't believe a patent should be granted until a working prototype has been demonstrated.

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not necessarily a prototype...

but in most cases I believe you are required to outline how the system/technology will function, at least in some base way. I remember we had to design something in grade 5, and apply for a patent.. the shit we came up with was absolutely absurd, but all required detailed explanations of what it was we were trying to patent, and how it was supposed to work, regardless of how sound it was from an engineering/physics standpoint. like "I'm patenting a giant robot with eye lasers. The lasers are in the eye, and fire based on the press of a button" - Sure, you can patent that.

and yes, you can be cynical about patent claims. while it doesn't always happen this way, it certainly can, and has in the past. Remember the Year 2000 guy.

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@JeffShortland

How long 'til these robots with eye lasers hit the market?

I'll take three.

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FAIL

Seriously - this patent was allowed????

"infringe a separate Kodak patent detailing a method by which one application can call upon other apps to help it complete a task"

Surely this means Microsoft are screwed - How many windows apps call a DLL to help complete a task....

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Stop

ah, but, that's missing the detail

the devil is probably in HOW you do it. many ways to skin a cat.

there's probably a lot of ways to "preview images of different resolutions" (sounds a lot like their PhotoCD trickery, which is harking back a hell of a long way), the argument hangs on whether they got their own, or if they're using Kodak's ideas..... or at least something suspiciously similar.

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Black Helicopters

If it's OK for Microsoft ...

I guess Apple felt that it, too, could plunder other peoples IP rights, just as it did with the Xerox developement work that was adopted by Apple for it's GUI.

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