Apple Spends the Weekend in Court

Apple won against Nokia, but potentially could lose–big–against Kodak.


Apple’s legal team had a roller coaster of a weekend, winning against Nokia’s attempt to block imports late last Friday, but could potentially lose to Kodak in an estimated $1 billion case. Nokia’s rejected suit alleged patent infringement against a number of essential iPhone features, including the use of the familiar “wiping” navigation gesture. Mere hours ealier, the same court, the International Trade Commission, revived a previously rejected suit by Kodak, who is seeking massive royalties on patent related to low-resolution previews of still images. The upshot is that Apple is maintaining its King of the Hill status at 2-0 against its eager opponents, but it may drop to an even 1-1, if Kodak wins a reversal.

The ITC is a strategic arbitrator in these cases, for both the expeditious European court system and the ITC’s ability to block imports of the offending technology (as it has done against Sony’s Playstation). “In the United States, most intellectual property claims never reach court and are settled in advance,” German intellectural property lawyer, Peter Chrocziel, tells the New York Times. “But in Europe, it is the opposite.”

The Nokia-Apple ping-pong battle began in October of 2009, when Nokia claimed royalties related to essential iPhone features, such as 3G connectivity. As is typical in patent cases, Apple counter-sued, reaching into its grab-bag patent portfolio for any overlapping technology currently used on Nokia devices. On Friday, Judge James Gildea made an initial determination that Apple had not violated five of the patents (his decision can be read here [pdf]). Both Apple and Nokia will await a decision by the full commission around August 1st.

Just a bit earlier, the same ITC court agreed to review Kodak’s suit against Apple and RIM. Kodak claims intellectual property ownership over the low-resolution image preview that’s displayed while a camera phone is aimed at the capture target. Most users will know this as the constantly refreshing, blurry images that are shown on the screen as they steady the camera on what they want to capture. The resulting image, stored on the harddrive of the phone, is of a much higher quality. This process, of low-resolution preview/high-resolution capture is what Kodak claims it invented, something the previous judge struck down as an “obvious” invention (pdf)

Both cases are ongoing and portend potentially enormous sums in compensatory royalties.

Related Story: Apple Sues Amazon: App Store vs. Appstore Is On!


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