NEW YORK Eastman Kodak Co has taken legal action claiming Apple Inc's iPhone and Research in Motion Ltd's BlackBerry camera phones infringe the photography company's patents.
Kodak shares rose on Thursday after it said it filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), alleging iPhones and BlackBerrys improperly use technology related to a method for previewing images.
Kodak filed two suits in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York against Apple that claim infringement of patents related to digital cameras and certain computer processes.
Representatives from Apple and RIM said the companies do not comment on litigation.
Kodak, hit hard by the economic downturn as consumers eschew photo-taking vacations and businesses delay purchasing printing systems, has cultivated its patent portfolio into an important source of revenue.
In October, the company said it sees licensing revenue averaging at least $250 million to $350 million each year for the next several years. Kodak had revenues of about $9.4 billion in 2008 and is expected to detail 2009 results later this month.
It already has existing agreements with a broad array of technology companies, including Nokia, Motorola Inc, Sony Corp and Panasonic Corp. In recent weeks it has settled patent suits against LG Electronics Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.
Kodak said it wants compensation for the use of the technology and is open to talks with Apple and RIM. But it is asking the ITC to prevent Apple and RIM from importing infringing devices, including certain mobile telephones and wireless communication devices featuring digital cameras.
In both district court actions against Apple, Kodak is seeking to permanently enjoin Apple from further infringement, as well as unspecified damages.
Kodak's claims against Apple go a step beyond camera phones. In one of the district court suits, Kodak alleges infringement of patents that describe a method by which a computer program can "ask for help" from another application to carry out certain computer-oriented functions and says it applies to "any Apple product" that uses that method.
Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross said the attempt to make money from Kodak's patent portfolio is smart, but warned it may not offset Kodak other concerns.
"We remain concerned with Kodak's dependence on nonrecurring IP licensing for cash flow, required investments in unprofitable inkjet platforms and exposure to the secular decline in analog film," she said.
Kodak shares were 2.2 percent higher at $5.04 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange after hitting a session high of $5.44 earlier.
(Reporting by Franklin Paul; editing by Dave Zimmerman and Andre Grenon)