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Kodak lands another blow against Apple in patent fight

Kodak has grabbed another victory, however small, against Apple in the companies' ongoing patent disputes.

US Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper ruled in favour of Kodak last week, regarding ownership claims to two of 10 patents the photo company plans to sell during its bankruptcy auction.

Gropper asserted that Apple's patent claims were made too late in the process.

"If Apple's claims proceed despite their unreasonably delayed commencement, Kodak might have to go back to the drawing board for ways to fund its case," the judge wrote in his ruling.

Though Kodak didn't walk away with a full win, Gropper was sympathetic to the imaging firm's struggles.

"A chapter 11 debtor faces enormous pressures while attempting to reorganise, and Kodak's ability to effect a critical sale of property of the estate while protecting other parties' interest in that property would be cut off if Apple's unreasonably late claims are not barred," he said.

Still, the judge denied Kodak's motion for summary judgment regarding the remaining eight patents, saying that the company could renew the request based on "a more complete record."

Kodak is happy with the judgment, a spokesman claimed.

"With respect to several other patents to which Apple and FlashPoint only recently asserted ownership claims, Kodak believes that the facts will show that they are baseless, and nothing but an attempt to interfere with the sale of our patent portfolio," he said.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kodak filed for bankruptcy in January, gaining the opportunity to restructure its debt, and its patent portfolio.

Less than two months ago, Kodak sued Apple, claiming the computer giant was trying to purposely "delay and derail" Kodak's efforts to sell some of its patents in order to rework its finances. Both companies said they owned the digital imaging patents in question – Kodak reported $3 billion (£1.92bn) in earnings from licensing the patents to 37 firms, while Apple said it owns 10 of the patents due to work the businesses conducted together in the 1990s.

One-time partner FlashPoint also jumped into the fight, claiming ownership alongside the Cupertino company.

In July, Kodak earned its first victory over Apple, when a New York Bankruptcy Court approved 1,100 patents for auction, which is expected to begin 13 August.

More recently, Apple lost its appeal to transfer the Kodak patent case out of bankruptcy court, thereby slowing the photography firm's auction plans.

The 1,100 patents include 700 related to digital camera LCD viewfinders, and another 400 for image capture and manipulation.