Kodak has finally been thrown a lifeline. Yesterday, the beleaguered photography company announced that it had convinced banks to loan it $793 million in order to climb out of bankruptcy by the first half of 2013. The loan agreement comes with one big catch: Kodak must be able to sell its extensive collection of patents for at least half a billion dollars. Read more…
It wasn’t too long ago that Kodak filed multiple patent infringement lawsuits against Apple in a scramble for life-giving cash, but now the tables have turned. Less than a month after Kodak filed for bankruptcy and announced the end of its camera business, Apple is reportedly in the process of asking the court for permission to sue bankrupt Kodak for infringing on Apple’s patents in its printers, digital cameras, and digital picture frames. This back and forth IP fight is one that Kodak might not be in for long: the company is still trying to sell off its portfolio of roughly 1,100 imaging patents.
Kodak might be on its deathbed, but that’s not stopping the company from launching a new volley of lawsuits over patent infringements. Already trying to milk $1 billion from Apple, the company has filed new lawsuits against smartphone makers Apple and HTC, alleging that Apple violated four of its patents and HTC five. The lawsuits center around technology for transferring photos on and off devices. While today’s lawsuits might simply be a creative marketing effort in Kodak’s attempt to sell off its patent portfolio, the market seems pleased with it: the stock price jumped nearly 40% today.
If you’re curious as to which prime lenses Canon has marked for refreshing, recently filed patents may hold the answer. The lineup consists of a 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.2, 85mm f/1.8, 100mm f/2.0, 135mm f/2.0, and 200mm f/2.0. There are also rumors that a 35mm f/1.4 Mark II is already floating around in the wild, which suggests that it will be officially announced in the near future.
Major camera makers including Olympus, Samsung and Sony have all filed patents in recent days for liquid lens technology. Unlike traditional glass lenses, liquid lenses don’t have any moving parts. Instead, liquid is used to focus light, and different voltages are applied to the liquid to change the shape of the liquid, thereby controlling the image. In the video above, techie Ben Krasnow introduces the technology, and then shows off a device he made by ripping a liquid lens out of a USB webcam.
Talk about a Kodak acquisition seems to be heating up as giant tech companies — including Google, Microsoft, and Apple — continue to engage in a patent-hoarding war. Just two days ago, Google agreed to acquire Motorola for $12.5 billion in order to snatch up the roughly 25,000 patents owned by the handset maker. Bloomberg writes that the patents held by Kodak may be worth five times more than the company itself, making it a prime acquisition target:
If Kodak’s patents can command $3 billion, acquiring the company would outweigh the liabilities [...] An acquirer would also be able to sell Kodak’s commercial and consumer printing businesses and the digital camera unit for at least $2.5 billion, he said.
Buyers may include Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, Samsung, the Suwon, South Korea-based maker of Galaxy phones and tablet computers, and Google, according to Luskin.
That’s crazy — can you imagine Google or Microsoft buying Kodak to strip it of its patents and then selling off the corpse to some other camera maker? No wonder Kodak adopted a ‘poison pill’.
We reported yesterday that Kodak has taken defensive measures to prevent a hostile takeover for its extensive collection of digital imaging patents. One of these patents is an image previewing invention that has earned Kodak nearly $1 billion from Samsung and LG, and that’s at the center of an ongoing legal battle with Apple. With the income generated by patent lawsuits dwindling, the company is now considering the sale of 1,100 patents (about 10% of its portfolio), including the valuable image previewing patent. A sale might bring in significantly more cash than the market value of the company, which currently sits at about $600 million.
If you look at the price of Kodak’s stock, you’ll see that the company is currently worth about $600 million — a figure that may be significantly lower than what its digital imaging patents could sell for. With the risk looming that a buyer might try to acquire the patents by simply taking over the company, Kodak is taking evasive maneuvers:
The Rochester photo and imaging company said Monday that its board had created a special class of stock to serve as a firewall in case someone tries to take a majority interest in the company.
Under the terms of the deal, if any investor tries to buy 5 percent or more of the company over the next three years, Kodak would issue all current stockholders shares of preferred stock. As a result, any takeover attempt would require the purchase of additional shares that could make the cost prohibitive.
In the business world, this tactic is known as a “poison pill“.
Things aren’t going very well for Sigma these days — just days after the world balked at the $9,700 price tag it’s attaching to the upcoming SD1 DSLR, Nikon is announcing that it’s suing Sigma for $150 million over the vibration reduction technology found in Sigma DSLR lenses. Furthermore, it’s demanding that Sigma put a halt to the manufacturing and sale of lenses that infringe on the VR patents, which might be a large number of OS (Optical Stabilization) lenses.
Canon might be rolling out a new Image Stabilized lens with a built-in teleconverter, but Tamron and Nikon seem to have image-stabilization/vibration-reduction tricks up their sleeve as well. Apparently in the early 2000s both Nikon and Tamron filed patents for teleconverters with image stabilization baked right in. Tamron’s was for a standard unit that sits between the lens and the camera body, while Nikon’s was for a unit that sits in front of the lens. Read more…