Eastman Kodak has been given the OK by a New York-based US bankruptcy judge to auction its digital imaging patents in a move that could fetch billions for the financially struggling firm.
Both Apple and FlashPoint Technology had objected to the sale of 10 specific patents out of the more than 1,100 Digital Capture and Kodak Imaging Systems and Services (KISS) patent portfolios.
In response, Kodak sued Apple last month in the bankruptcy court, alleging that iPhone maker wrongly claimed to own 10 patents arising from work the companies did together nearly 20 years ago.
In a statement announcing the court ruling, Timothy Lynch, Kodak chief intellectual property officer, said: "We are gratified that the Court has enabled us to move ahead with our patent auction in a timely manner and with clarity on ownership for the winning buyer."
Lynch added that potential patent buyers will be able to submit bids on a confidential basis, subject to review by Kodak, some of its creditors and the bankruptcy court.
Kodak added the auction is expected to be held early next month. The financially strapped company, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January, is selling the patents under section 363 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code which permits a sale free and clear of any adverse claim or interest.
The patents will be sold in a fair, competitive process overseen by the Bankruptcy Court and at closing; the winning bidder can obtain an order of the bankruptcy court that protects it against any third-party ownership claims.
News reports noted the patent portfolio has generated more than $3bn for Kodak in the past decade.
Lynch expressed confidence the claims will be dismissed quickly. "The Apple and FlashPoint claims are baseless and Kodak will still seek dismissal on summary judgment in July," he said.
"However, today’s ruling provides a Court-approved process allowing buyers to acquire the patents free and clear of all ownership allegations, regardless of the status of the dispute with Apple and Flashpoint at the time of closing."
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