The vultures are circling around Kodak’s bankruptcy proceedings, ready to pick clean the best of the company’s reportedly substantial patent portfolio. With Google and Apple leading the flock, and accused patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures joining in, the pickings may determine the future of the mobile market.
Kodak, which is selling off the patents to raise money for its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, wants to raise $2.6 billion for the bundle of intellectual property. But so far, it seems to be a buyers' market. Apple and Google have tossed in initial bids of between $150 and $250 million, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.
To understand why Apple and Google are working to pick up patents from a camera company, look at the players in the bidding process. Apple is partnering with Intellectual Ventures and Microsoft on their bids for Kodak’s IP, while Google is joined by HTC, LG Electronics and Samsung.
Android vs. Everyone Else
In other words, it’s shaping up as a battle between Android and the other big mobile players.
For Google and Apple specifically, Kodak’s patents are yet another skirmish in the two companies' escalating war.
So far, it’s mostly been Apple on the offensive. With various litigious tactics, such as suing Android device makers like Samsung and actively dropping apps for Google’s products from the upcoming version of its iOS mobile platform, including Maps and YouTube.
If either of these camps were to get a hold of Kodak’s patents, the odds are high that the winner will attempt to “weaponize” them for litigation against the other party. It’s easy to imagine Apple (and Microsoft) using Kodak’s image and camera patents to wrap Google and the Android phone makers in enough red tape to force cross licensing and get a (bigger) piece of the popular Android pie.
Nor is it difficult to envision Google using these patents as a defensive stick to fend off IP attackers and give Android some legal breathing room.
With that kind of advantage in the mobile phone market at stake, it is unlikely bids for Kodak’s patents will remain low for long.