Ailing Kodak Files Patent Suits Against Apple And HTC

Kodak EasyShare camera

Eastman Kodak announced late Tuesday that it was suing Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and HTC for allegedly infringing four of its imagining patents. The timing of the suits may be strategic as the struggling camera maker has been desperately trying to sell part of its patent portfolio to stave off a bankruptcy filing.

The company stated in a press release that it had filed suit in federal court in its home town of Rochester, New York and that it had also commenced proceedings at the International Trade Commission, a federal body that can ban imports if they infringe US patents.

The patents in question are related to technology for transmitting images. Kodak says Apple’s iPad and iPhone are using this technology as are HTC’s smart phones and tablets.

The timing of the suit is curious in that Kodak’s patent portfolio has been a hot issue for months. Analysts have said selling or licensing the patents may be the 131-year company’s only hope of effecting a turnaround after years of decline. The new lawsuits will not produce any cash in the near future as patent proceedings typically take years. Today’s announcement may therefore a way to show the strength of the portfolio to potential buyers or it may be a threat to other companies using imaging technology to pay a licensing fee to Kodak.

In a separate announcement today, the company said it was implementing a management shake-up and cost-cutting measures (via Bloomberg). Kodak is rumored to be preparing a bankruptcy filing for early February that would permit it to shed debt and restructure.

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