NEW YORK Eastman Kodak Co can proceed with the sale of a key digital imaging patent, a bankruptcy judge ruled on Wednesday, saying that Apple Inc waited too long to raise a claim of infringement.
Judge Allan Gropper in Manhattan approved the sale of the '218 patent, which Kodak considers one of the most important of the more than 1,100 patents it hopes to sell this month.
The judge also cleared the way for Kodak to sell a second patent Apple had disputed, known as the '335 patent. He said it was premature to give Kodak the right to sell several other patents, saying he needed more information to decide the companies' respective rights.
Apple had said it had rights in the '218 and '335 patents because of work it had done with Kodak in the 1990s. FlashPoint Technology Inc, an Apple spin-off, was part of the lawsuit.
An auction to sell hundreds of Kodak patents, which have been sorted into two groups, is scheduled for August 8. Bids were due on July 30.
Kodak is selling the patents to raise money for creditors that provided bankruptcy financing.
Apple tried last week to transfer the patent dispute out of bankruptcy court, which could have complicated the planned sale, but it was sent back to Gropper.
The patents include technology that helps camera owners preview photographs on LCD screens and are part of a group of 700 patents. Patents in the other group of 400 have also been the subject of lawsuits by Apple and Research in Motion Ltd.
Kodak lost an appeal before the U.S. International Trade Commission earlier this month related to those suits, which could be a negative for the auction.
(Reporting By Caroline Humer; editing by Andre Grenon)