Apple fires back in digital imaging patent war with Kodak

Apple logoLate last week, Apple filed a patent infringement suit against Kodak in US District Court, California Northern District. As has become the custom among tech companies, a parallel complaint has also been filed with the International Trade Commission. These complaints come nearly four months after Kodak launched lawsuits and ITC complaints against Apple and RIM, complaining that both companies violated Kodak patents with the cameras in each company's respective mobile devices.

In January, Kodak went after both Apple and RIM, claiming that iPhones and BlackBerrys violated two Kodak patents related to digital imaging. The patents include "Electronic Camera for Initiating Capture of Still Images while Previewing Motion Images" (US Patent #6,292,218) and Single Sensor Color Camera with User Selectable Image Record Size" (US Patent #5,493,335). Kodak also accused Apple alone of infringing three other software patents, including "Integration of Data Between Typed Objects by Mutal [sic], Direct Invocation Between Data Managers Corresponding to Data Types" (US Patent #5,226,161), "Multitasking Computer System for Integrating the Operation of Different Application Programs which Manipulate Data Objects of Different Types" (US Patent #5,421,012), and "Link Mechanism for Linking Data Between Objects and for Performing Operations on the Linked Data in an Object Based System" (US Patent #5,303,379).

Kodak also filed a complaint with the ITC to have the import and sale of iPhones and BlackBerrys believed to infringe on Kodak's imaging patents blocked.

Apple responded to the original suits, claiming that all the patents in question are invalid due to either procedural issues, duplication of other patents, or obviousness of some of the patents' claims. It has asked the court to find the patents invalid and unenforceable. Furthermore, Apple contended that even if the imaging patents were not ruled invalid, it also has an express license to use the technology in question.

Apple has further retaliated against Kodak by going on the offensive and filing its own ITC and civil patent complaints against Kodak. Leveraging its own wide-ranging IP portfolio that happens to include some digital imaging patents, Apple says that Kodak's digital still and video cameras violate two of its patents. The patents in question include "System and Method for Using a Unified Memory Architecture to Implement a Digital Camera Device" (US Patent #6,031,964) and "Modular Digital Image Processing via an Image Processing Chain with Modifiable Parameter Controls. (Apple was also awarded a patent this week for a method of detecting the color temperature of a light source for auto white balance, though this method isn't widely used among the types of cameras that this lawsuit targets.)

Apple is targeting nearly all of Kodak's still image cameras, including the Z, S, and C-series point-and-shoots as well as the recently released SLICE models, saying those cameras infringe on both patents. It also claims that the popular compact video cameras, like the Zi6 and Zx1, violate the '964 patent in particular.

Apple has historically used its patent portfolio defensively, but that changed recently when it sued popular Android handset maker HTC, claiming the company violated as many as 20 of Apple's mobile phone and operating system patents. Given this recent move against Kodak, it appears as though Apple may be more willing to file offensive patent infringement suits in the future. Whether or not that proves to be a successful change in strategy may take a minimum of a year or two find out, as these cases typically take years to wind through the courts. ITC investigations, which courts have at times ruled to stay related cases pending their outcome, typically take about one year.

Source: ars technica

Tags: Apple, Kodak

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