An Administrative Law Judge issued a ruling on Monday declaring that a major battleground patent owned by Kodak is invalid. The judge found that both Apple and Research In Motion had infringed on this patent with some smartphone models, but ruled that “obviousness” invalidated the patent and its claims.
This is the same patent that Apple has been contesting in Kodak’s bankruptcy proceedings, accusing the company of “misappropriating” research the two companies had jointly underwent in the 1990s. Apple had asked the court not to allow the patent to be sold in a patent sale being pursued by Kodak, an action protested by Kodak.
If Monday’s ruling is upheld during subsequent review in an appeal already promised by Kodak, the patent, the value of Kodak’s patent portfolio will take a significant hit.
The ITC’s process takes place in multiple stages, and this initial ruling has is just one of many steps. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Commission’s final ruling is currently expected on September 21st, 2012.
Making the situation more interesting is that the same patent has already been upheld in a prior complaint lodged by Kodak against Samsung, and the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office also affirmed its validity in 2010. At the same time, RIM pointed out to The Journal that a second ITC Administrative Law Judge has also found the patent to be invalid.
The first time was in an earlier review of this same complaint. In January, an Administrative Law Judge also ruled that the patent was invalid, but a full panel recommended that it get another review, which is what led to Monday’s ruling.
In other words, this is far from over. In addition to Kodak’s complaint with the ITC, there are multiple lawsuits between Kodak and Apple, and the above-mentioned bankruptcy proceedings Kodak is undergoing.
To wit, Kodak issued a statement saying, “We expect to appeal to the full commission his recommendation on validity. [This] recommendation represents a preliminary step in a process that we are confident will conclude in Kodak’s favor.”