Kodak confirms patent sale, with wireless firms reportedly interested

Camera pioneer Kodak confirmed it is looking to cash in on the white-hot market for mobile-related patents, though it's unclear how many industry players are interested in the firm's intellectual property at this point.

Kodak CEO Antonio Perez confirmed to Bloomberg that numerous parties have signed non-disclosure agreements with Kodak and that investment bank Lazard is advising Kodak on the sale.

Perez declined to discuss specific companies that might be interested or the status of any negotiations. However, he said selling the patents could help Kodak avoid costly patent litigation. The U.S. International Trade Commission has delayed a ruling on Kodak's bid to get $1 billion in licensing fees from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM).

"All of this litigation takes a lot of time, and it's very expensive and demands a lot of my time," he said. "We would rather get an infusion of cash in advance, being able to have a series of relationships with many of those companies that otherwise we'd have to be in legal conflict with."

Parties potentially interested in Kodak's patents include Apple, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Samsung, Bloomberg reported, citing Christopher Marlett, founder and CEO of MDB Capital Group, an investment bank specializing in intellectual property. All of the companies declined to comment, Bloomberg said.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Kodak had started the bidding on its patents. The report, citing unnamed sources, said one of the of the companies interested in Kodak's patents is a "large, strategic buyer in the wireless industry looking to use the patents for defensive protection." However, since Kodak has struck licensing deals with numerous OEMs, it's unclear what the ultimate value of the patents would be.

Google lost out in a patent auction in early July to a coalition of six companies, including Apple, EMC Corp., Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) and Sony, for Nortel Networks' patent portfolio. The consortium paid $4.5 billion, and Apple contributed $2.6 billion, though antitrust officials at the Justice Department are reportedly investigating the sale. Google subsequently agreed to purchase Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) for $12.5 billion, and said that it was doing so in large part because of Motorola's extensive patent portfolio for wireless technologies.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this patent dispute chart

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