Eastman Kodak has accused both Apple and Research in Motion of infringing on its camera technology patents and using the same without permission in their iPhone and Blackberry mobile products respectively. The accusations have led the US International Trade Commission to initiate investigations against both manufacturers.
According to Kodak, the integrated digital camera technology used by both Apple and RIM in their smartphones is patented by them. Kodak filed its first complaint last month and followed it up with federal lawsuits against both companies. The camera technology major was already in negotiations with the two companies, but the talks broke down. Now the suits seek compensation for Kodak from Apple and RIM for using its technology. By initiating the investigation, the Trade Commission has effectively blocked all import and sale of devices that supposedly infringe on patents.
The lawsuit is not the first for Kodak. It got into a similar tussle with Samsung last year, which had resulted in both companies filing cases against each other for patent infringement. The two Asia tech giants however, managed to avoid US International Trade Commission investigation by signing a cross-licensing agreement.
It now remains to be seen whether RIM and Apple can reach similar agreements with Kodak. As of now, neither company has responded to Kodak’s accusations. If Kodak wins the lawsuits, Apple and RIM might face import bans, which would severely undermine their positions in the US. Neither company has manufacturing facilities in the US; both import all their handsets from cheaper manufacturing facilities abroad. So if the import ban comes through, they might effectively lose their US markets.
The only options available to Apple and RIM are to compensate Kodak or sign cross-licensing agreements with the company.
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