ITC Investigates Apple and RIM After Kodak Complaint

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

The International Trade Commission is examining smartphones from Apple and Research In Motion, following a patent complaint from Eastman Kodak

The International Trade Commission (ITC) is looking into an alleged patent infringement complaint from Eastman Kodak Co concerning smartphones from Apple and Research In Motion, which contain digital cameras.

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“The products at issue in this investigation are smartphones with built-in cameras,” the agency said in a statement. “The complainant requests that the USITC issue an exclusion order and cease and desist orders.”

The ITC investigation into the makers of the hugely popular iPhone and BlackBerry devices follows two separate lawsuits that Kodak filed in mid-January against the two vendors in the US District Court for the Western District of New York.

At that time Kodak claimed that Apple was infringing on Kodak patents “related to digital cameras and certain computer processes.”

“In the first suit against Apple in US District Court, Kodak alleges infringement of two patents generally covering image preview and the processing of images of different resolutions. In the second suit, Kodak alleges infringement of patents that describe a method by which a computer programme can “ask for help” from another application to carry out certain computer-oriented functions,” Kodak said in January.

“In the case of Apple and RIM, we’ve had discussions for years with both companies in an attempt to resolve this issue amicably, and we have not been able to reach a satisfactory agreement,” Laura Quatela, Kodak’s chief intellectual property officer, said back in January. “In light of that, we are taking this action to ensure that we protect the interests of our shareholders and the existing licensees of our technology.”

At the same time however it also filed a complaint with the ITC, which announced today that it would begin its own investigation.

Kodak is effectively asking the ITC to stop Apple and RIM from importing the infringing devices, a move that could have huge repercussions for the two handset makers. Kodak has already said that it had “licensed digital imaging technology to approximately 30 companies, including … LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.”

Apple is already locked into a bitter lawsuit against Nokia, after the Finnish handset giant sued Apple in October last year, claiming that the iPhone infringed ten Nokia patents concerning wireless connection for GSM, UMTS and wireless LAN.