Summary:

Why buy a digital camera when an iPhone or BlackBerry can take relatively decent pics? It’s likely a question that many smartphone owners –…

Kodak EasyShare camera

Why buy a digital camera when an iPhone or BlackBerry can take relatively decent pics? It’s likely a question that many smartphone owners — aside from pro and amateur photographers — have asked themselves at least once. For Eastman Kodak, the increased use of camera-enabled smartphones could have been a major problem in terms of lost revenue. But the company was proactive — cutting tech licensing deals with many of the big handset manufacturers — so that it could at least make money from their use of its digital imaging technology in their new phones.

Problem is, Kodak has never managed to get Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) or RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) to agree to any licensing deals — meaning it’s not getting a cut of the billions of dollars worth of sales of two of the most popular camera-enabled smartphones. So it’s suing both companies for patent infringement.

Kodak first filed suit with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), claiming that Apple’s iPhones and RIM’s camera-enabled BlackBerry devices infringe on a tech patent it holds for image previews. Separately, it filed two other suits against Apple in a New York District Court over digital camera and computing technology patents overall.

In the ITC case (ZDNet has the pdf), Kodak is seeking a “limited exclusion order” preventing the importation of infringing iPhones and BlackBerry devices; in the District Court cases, it’s seeking damages from Apple, and hoping to “permanently enjoin” the company from further infringement.

The company says it has been trying to negotiate licensing deals with both Apple and RIM “for years,” and that it’s been forced to file the suits “to protect the interest of our shareholders and the existing licensees of our technology.” Kodak has deals with 30 other electronics companies, including LG (SEO: 066570), Motorola (NYSE: MOT), Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and Samsung. Release.

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