The US International Trade Commission (USITC) [official website] on Friday upheld a ruling [notice of determination; PDF] by its administrative law judge (ALJ) that Apple and Research in Motion (RIM) did not illegitimately use digital image preview technology patented by Eastman Kodak [corporate websites]. Kodak had appealed earlier USITC rulings that neither Apple nor RIM had violated Kodak's patent rights covering how digital cameras preview images. Specifically the ALJ had ruled that the Kodak patent claim in question was in fact infringed by Apple and RIM products, but that the infringed claim was invalid as obvious [35 USC § 103 text] under the combination of an earlier US patent and a Japanese patent application. Therefore, because the ALJ found Kodak's patent claim invalid, Kodak has no claim against Apple or RIM for infringement. Kodak, which hopes to recover $1 billion from the lawsuit, plans to appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website].
Kodak, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January, has used patent litigation in recent years as a major part of the struggling company's strategy to generate revenue [Reuters report]. Last month Kodak won permission from the bankruptcy court to sell over 1,100 digital imaging patents to help repay creditors. The patents make up over one-tenth of Kodak's digital-capture portfolio for devices such as digital cameras, smartphones and tablets, a portfolio that has generated more than $3 billion in revenue since 2001. Kodak filed suit against Apple and RIM in 2010, alleging violations of the Tariff Act of 1930 "in the importation into the US, the sale for importation, and the sale within the US after importation of certain mobile telephones and wireless communication devices featuring digital cameras, and components thereof" that infringe Kodak's patent claims. Additionally last month Kodak filed suit against Apple [JURIST report] in bankruptcy court, claiming that currently Apple erroneously maintains ownership of 10 patents, also covering how digital cameras preview images, developed when the two companies worked together in the early 1990s. Apple is also a potential purchaser of Kodak's digital-capture patents.