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  (Source: engadget.com)
U.S. bankruptcy judge tells Apple to take a hike, Kodak has enough problems on its hands

A U.S. bankruptcy judge has told Apple to quit kicking Kodak while it's down, and ordered that the tech giant not proceed with its patent infringement claims against the bankrupt photo company.

Last month, Apple asked a bankruptcy judge for permission to sue Kodak for patent infringement regarding a digital camera Apple said it created along with Kodak in the 1990s. More specifically, the patent is a digital camera that can preview images on a LCD screen. Apple claims Kodak moved ahead with patenting the camera on its own though, and proceeded to file the claim with the International Trade Commission (ITC) and the U.S. District Court in Manhattan last month. Apple now fears that the patent might be sold during Kodak's bankruptcy, and wants to resolve this ownership argument quickly.

Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy on January 19, 2012 in the federal bankruptcy court in the Southern District of New York. While it seems as if Apple is taking advantage of Kodak's position, Kodak was apparently well enough to send a patent infringement lawsuit at Apple first in January, which also targeted Motorola Mobility.

Apple argued that the ITC shouldn't even bother with the claims because of Kodak's bankruptcy filing, but Kodak responded saying that bankruptcy isn't stopping Apple from expanding its digital imaging technology. Apple launched the patent infringement lawsuit the very next month.

But U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper is putting a stop to Apple's lawsuit against Kodak, saying that it would be an "inappropriate way forward" to allow Apple to attack Kodak only months after filing bankruptcy. Gropper added that the first month and a half or so are most difficult in a bankruptcy case and that Kodak needs some time to reorganize.

"The first 45 days are difficult in any bankruptcy case," said Gropper. "The debtor has dozens of balls in the air, dozens of matters to take care of. What's the need for immediate relief?"

Kodak said Apple is purposely trying to slow the patent sale process, where Kodak must seek approval for bidding procedures at a patent auction by June 2012 under the terms of its $950 million bankruptcy loan. The patents are worth between $2.2 billion and $2.6 billion.

Apple may be looking to file a new lawsuit, but Gropper said that Apple's intention to "seek damages for money owed after Kodak's bankruptcy appears to be disingenuous."

Kodak is already starting the sale process, where just one week ago, it struck a deal with Shutterfly to sell off specific assets of the KODAK Gallery online photo services business. In addition, Kodak bailed on the digital camera market last month.

Sources: Reuters, The Wall Street Journal





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