At about 5:00 PM in Washington, D.C., today, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) will decide if it should review a judge's findings from January that concluded neither Apple's iPhone or RIM's Blackberry infringed patents held by Eastman Kodak Company. Antonio Perez, CEO of Kodak, told Bloomberg a victory could be worth more than US$1 billion in royalty revenue for the beleaguered company, which lost almost half its market value in the past year.
"This is a lot of money, big money," Perez told Bloomberg.
The dispute centers on a patent broadly described as an "image-preview feature in camera phones." In 2009, Kodak filed similar complaints against Korean manufacturers Samsung and LG Electronics. In those cases, both related to the same patents Apple and RIM are accused of violating, the ITC ruled in favor of the 131-year-old Kodak company. Samsung and LG paid a combined $964 million to settle the matter before it could be escalated to the ITC's full six-member commission which has the authority to ban importation of products that infringe U.S. patents.
Kodak recently reported revenue of $7.2 billion in 2010 - only half of what the company brought in five years earlier - and said two of its three main businesses operated at a loss. Nearly 12% of the company's revenue, $838 million, came from intellectual property licensing and it expects to maintain an average annual income of $250 million to $350 million from patent royalties over the next three years. These numbers don't reflect the potential $1 billion revenue windfall from RIM and Apple.
The company that made photography affordable with its Brownie and Instamatic cameras sued Apple in January, 2010, claiming the iPhone violated patents covering low resolution image previews on mobile devices. Apple filed a countersuit alleging several of its imaging patents were used without permission in some of Kodak's family of digital cameras. In January, Judge Paul Luckern decided in favor of Apple, saying the iPhone did not violate Kodak's intellectual property rights. If the ITC decides to review the case, a final decision on the matter would likely be made by May 23.
"It would be important for Kodak to get a favorable ruling on this matter because most of its operating businesses lose money whereas intellectual property royalties go directly to the bottom line," said Jim Kelleher, an analyst at Argus Research in New York.On the New York Stock Exchange, shares of Kodak were up as much as 10% earlier today. It's Kodak's largest intraday gain since December 9, 2010, reports Bloomberg.