Kodak may abandon patent auction, explores options

Fri Sep 14, 2012 10:54am EDT

(Reuters) - Eastman Kodak Co EKDKQ.PK said on Friday it may abandon efforts to sell a portfolio of digital imaging patents at auction, and instead set up a new licensing company to help repay creditors in its bankruptcy case.

A sale of the roughly 1,100 patents, which Kodak has said were worth as much as $2.6 billion, has been a key element of the Rochester, New York-based company's plans to repay creditors as it shifts focus to commercial packaging and printing from photography.

But in a filing with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan, Kodak said it will delay "until further notice" a September 19 court hearing to approve such a sale, which had been scheduled following three adjournments.

While Kodak and its affiliates remain in sale talks, they "are continuing to explore other alternatives with respect to the digital imaging patent assets, and their intellectual property more broadly, and may not reach acceptable terms with parties via the auction process," according to the filing.

The company said that if a transaction does not occur, Kodak may create a licensing company for the patents "as a source of recovery for creditors."

According to published reports, the bids that Kodak received for the patents were far lower than what it had hoped, including bids below $500 million from prospective buyers such as Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Google Inc (GOOG.O).

Krista Gleason, a Kodak spokeswoman, said on Friday that sale talks remain "active," and that the company has not decided whether to sell or license the patents.

Kodak shares were down 3 cents at 18.7 cents on Friday morning on the Pink Sheets.

The case is In re: Eastman Kodak Co et al, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-10202.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Matthew Lewis)

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