What might Kodak fetch for its patent portfolio in a year in which Nortel’s patents were worth $4.5 billion and Motorola (NYSE: MMI) was worth $12.5 billion? It seems the company is getting closer to finding out, now that prospective bidders that resemble a who’s-who of mobile computing are being asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Kodak’s ongoing patent negotiations have entered a new stage, in which prospective buyers have been asked to sign NDAs as they review the portfolio. A similar process took place in the months before the bankruptcy auction of Nortel’s patents, which was ultimately won by a consortium of companies including Apple and Microsoft after outbidding Google.
For a company formed in the 19th century, Kodak has a surprising number of patents that relate to modern-day mobile computing. It has kept Apple and Research in Motion busy at the International Trade Commission over patents related to camera phones, and last month it announced that a group of around 1,000 patents that don’t relate to its core imaging business would be available to interested buyers.
And there are many interested buyers. Google’s thirst for patents is well-chronicled at this point, and its competitors likewise would love to keep patents out of Google’s hands as to press their advantage in intellectual property lawsuits. A patent expert quoted by Bloomberg estimated that Kodak’s patents could fetch up to $3 billion, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned this year, it’s that patents are a hot commodity.