US government investigates Apple over Kodak patent claim

Dan Moren
19 February, 2010
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Say cheese! Apple’s finding itself squarely in the viewfinder of the U.S. International Trade Commission, which announced on Wednesday that it is investigating a patent infringement claim filed by camera-maker Kodak last month.

Says the government agency, which oversees cases of imported goods that may infringe upon intellectual property:

The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States and sale of certain mobile telephones and wireless communication devices featuring digital cameras and components thereof that infringe a patent asserted by Kodak. The complainant requests that the USITC issue an exclusion order and cease and desist orders.

Wow. Who knew they had cameraphones in 1930?

Kodak’s complaint alleges that Apple and RIM have infringed on a patent for previewing images, and asks the ITC to prevent any of those infringing devices from making their way into the country.

Of course, this is just an announcement that the agency is investigating the matter, which targets not only Apple, but also BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion. The case will be assigned to one of the ITC’s judges who will schedule a hearing, then decide whether or not there is a violation. Of course, this it the government we’re talking about, so any such decision would then be reviewed by the ITC. And then probably requires a referendum, a filibuster, and a supermajority in both houses of Congress. (Alright, not really, but government terms are just so fun.)

The upshot? It’s probably going to be a while before we hear anything definitive about this case, and there’s always the possibility that Kodak and Apple will decide to make nice in the meantime (where “making nice” involves large sums of money changing hands).

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