Going … going … gone? Not yet, it seems. Eastman Kodak has decided to extend its patent auction to give more time for the company to decide on bids.
Aside from technological innovation, patents are clearly being used by today’s technology companies as a means to better compete against each other. Case in point: Apple vs. Samsung, in which the two mobile giants are slugging it out in court to determine patent infringement liabilities.
This time, it’s Kodak that’s in the limelight, given its 1,100 patents or so related to imaging, up for grabs in line with Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing this January. The photography pioneer hopes the patent sale will help get it back on track to profitability.
Kodak started its patent auction last Wednesday, ahead of federal bankruptcy proceedings that will commence on Monday, August 20. Big names like Microsoft, Apple and Google have made their respective bids, although no one is talking about exact figures. According to Kodak, an independent firm has estimated their patent portfolio to be valued from $2.2 billion to $2.6 billion.
The portfolio is split into two lots, one with 700 and another with 400 patents. These have actually been in the market for more than a year now, but Kodak’s financial situation is complicating the potential sale. Some of the patents are also under question for their validity and ownership, and these lawsuits involve companies like Samsung, Apple and RIM. Kodak has actually accused some companies of derailing its efforts in selling the patents.
What’s clear at this point is that Kodak needs to liquidate this important asset in order to pay back investors and creditors. Technology companies will also find advantage in owning these patents. What smartphone or tablet doesn’t have imaging-related technologies like cameras?
This is similar to the $4.5 billion acquisition of Nortel patents by a consortium consisting of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and others, as well as Google’s acquisition of IBM patents and Motorola Mobility. These days, it’s not so much about making products as it is about owning the concept behind these products. Consider how Microsoft earns almost a billion per quarter from licensing royalties paid by Android smartphone manufacturers.
Kodak’s patents are clearly valuable, and the question at this point is which group or consortium will be able to snag this jewel: those with ties to Android or everybody else?