A judge on Thursday said that Apple could not pursue a patent infringement case against the Eastman Kodak company over a patent that Apple believes might be sold by Kodak during its bankruptcy issue before a dispute on its ownership is resolved.
Judge Allan Groper of the United States Bankruptcy Court which is based in Manhattan released rulings that covered both the aforementioned pending suit that Apple is bringing against Kodak over this patent, and a different complaint that refers to the damages that Apple believes Kodak owes ever since it filed for bankruptcy. The case has been pending in the United States District Court in Rochester, New York. It has already been automatically blocked by both the bankruptcy law as well as the International Trade Commission, but Apple has sought to lift this automatic block that is shielding Kodak from this case so that the suit can go on.
Judge Gropper said that unfreezing the suit might be considered as inappropriate, although he went on to suggest that any eventual decision that he takes over this case could likely be done without the waiver of jury trial rights. This essentially means that Apple and Kodak could possibly continue this battle out of bankruptcy court even after he decides the case. The two sides also have the option of settling all of their issues out of court and then get their settlement approved by the judge. However, the judge has asked Kodak and Apple to come back to court on March 20 with recommendations on how to proceed with this hearing such that they could come to a quick resolution regarding the patent ownership battle.
The patent under dispute is regarding a digital camera technology that can show previews of images on a LCD screen. Apple in its filing alleged that Kodak had misappropriated its technology in order to acquire the patent, while Kodak in its response said that any claims made by Apple regarding the ownership of this patent were baseless. Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s Mr. David Seligman, counsel for Apple, said that every single day that Kodak continues to use this patent the damages that Kodak owes Apple will grow.
Companies usually get protection against litigation in the first few days of their bankruptcy, and the fact that Kodak has been in bankruptcy since just January was something that the judge alluded to repeatedly in his ruling.