Eastman Kodak Co. said Thursday it is suing Apple Inc. and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. over technology related to digital cameras in their iPhone and BlackBerry smart phones.
Kodak filed a complaint before the U.S. International Trade Commission alleging the iPhone, Apple's hottest gadget, and Research in Motion's camera-enabled BlackBerry devices infringe on a Kodak patent covering technology for previewing photos.
Kodak is asking the federal agency that oversees trade disputes to bar Apple and RIM from shipping the phones. The agency has the power to order Customs to stop imports of products and parts made with the disputed technology.
Kodak also filed separate lawsuits against Apple in U.S. District Court in Rochester claiming an infringement of patents related to digital cameras and certain computer processes. The company is asking for unspecified monetary damages and a court order to end the disputed practices.
Sales of iPhones and BlackBerrys aren't immediately threatened. Patent cases can take months or years to resolve, and agreements over licensing and royalty payments often emerge.
"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," said Laura Quatela, Kodak's chief intellectual property officer.
"Our primary interest is not to disrupt the availability of any product but to obtain fair compensation for the use of our technology," Quatela said.
RIM declined to comment, while Apple officials did not immediately return messages.
Kodak, which is based in Rochester, has amassed more than 1,000 digital-imaging patents, and almost all of today's digital cameras rely on that technology. The photography pioneer spent $3.4 billion from 2004 to 2007 converting the bulk of its business from high-margin film to electronic imaging.
Kodak has licensed digital-imaging technology to about 30 companies, including mobile-device makers such as LG Electronics Inc., Motorola Inc., Nokia Corp. and Sony Ericsson, all of which pay royalties to Kodak.
On Monday, Kodak said it will draw royalties from South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. under a licensing pact that gives the companies access to each other's digital-imaging patents.
Samsung had already agreed in December to pay Kodak an unspecified amount as the two sides worked to settle a dispute triggered by technology used in Samsung's camera phones. That payment will be credited toward Samsung's royalty obligation, the terms of which were not disclosed.