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Kodak Sues Apple & RIM Over Preview In Cameras 285

Dave Knott writes "Kodak is suing Apple and Research In Motion over technology related to digital cameras in their iPhone and BlackBerry smart phones. The complaint specifically relates to photo preview functionality which Kodak claims infringes on their patents. The company is asking for unspecified monetary damages and a court order to end the disputed practices. Kodak has amassed more than 1,000 digital-imaging patents, and almost all of today's digital cameras rely on that technology. 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."
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Kodak Sues Apple & RIM Over Preview In Cameras

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  • Obvious (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 )

    Obvious patent is obviously invalid.

    • Re:Obvious (Score:4, Insightful)

      by the_crowbar ( 149535 ) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @04:13PM (#30769868)

      Obvious was my first thought as well. How long have cameras had a "preview"? Let's see, the very first camera I can remember was a Polaroid with the instant pictures. That camera had a view finder that showed you what to expect to see in the final picture. Every film camera I have every used had a "preview." Why was this patent granted? Just because it is a digital camera does that negate the decades of prior art in film cameras?


      • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @04:20PM (#30769964) Homepage Journal

        I can see a major difference between this a few finder.
        This will show a digital copy of the image in includes all the digital processing and sensor data. A viewfinder even in an SLR only shows what strikes the film. The chemistry of the film and how it is processed will have a huge effect on the actual picture. Yes I know that you do a lot of post processing with digital images but the original data is still delivered vs what happens with Film.
        Add in all the big companies that are paying fees for this and I would bet this is probably a valid patent. And let's be honest Kodak isn't an IP shill company. They make a lot of stuff and do a lot of research.

        • Re:Obvious (Score:4, Informative)

          by Vidar Leathershod ( 41663 ) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @04:36PM (#30770244)

          Kodak's "preview" patent says that you see all of the digital processing and sensor data? How do they manage that one on a tiny LCD? It's simply not the case that you get this with a digital preview. You see an approximation of what you will get. In fact, you see less than what you might using a viewfinder, especially if you are looking through a Minolta Alpha/Maxxum with Depth of Field preview.

          Viewfinders, including ones that have a screen you view from a distance, have been around for a long time. In fact, maybe these people would like a few words with Kodak over their apparent patent:


          That's called a "Waist-level" viewfinder, and they've been around for a long time (the first Rolleiflex DLR I can find reference to is from 1931). In short, I would like to see the full Patent application, and how Kodak represented the prior art and prior implementations of representing an image on a screen. The other thing I would like to see are the licensing agreements with the other companies. The article only mentions that the companies license patents regarding digital photography, and say nothing of licensing this particular patent. An unusual omission, in my opinion.

          • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

            I wouldn't dismiss this patent so fast. It could be the option to show you the picture and then give the option to keep it or delete it. I don't know how old this patent is but again we are talking about Kodak and the fact that many companies have already paid up. What I am seeing is the usual response from slashdot to every patent that it is obvious. While some patents are granted for things that are not just obvious but have been in use for years not every patent granted is bad.
            And what we think is obviou

            • The other respondent makes some good points, but I also want to reiterate, since you seem to have missed it, is that there was no mention of other companies licensing *this* patent. Only that they license digital photography technology. If they do license this patent, I would like to see that in writing, and also see how much it cost them.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "In general, patents can't generally patent a general idea."

        -General Patent

    • Deserves them right (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mrwolf007 ( 1116997 )
      You mean Apples multi-touch patent?
      Lets see, multi touch was used before that on touchpads.
      Capactitive touchscreens existed prior to the patent.
      But for some reason Apple get a patent to use multi touch on a touchscreen, thereby forcing other vendors to filter and ignore data delivered by the touch screen.
      Not enforcable in Europe, beeing a pure software patent and i cant see how such a patent can be granted since its it actually places restrictions on the interpretation of data provided by a hardware dev
      • -1 Fanboi can not has truth
        i guess
    • Yes, the patent should obviously be overturned, but ...

      Apple revealed they plan upon suing everyone for infringing upon their equally obvious multi-touch patents. Also, Apple always acts like other people's patents are irrelevant while their own matter. So please do make Apple sweat a little first.

      I'll be happiest if Apple's own successful arguments here are eventually used to help overturn their own silly patents. :)

  • by courteaudotbiz ( 1191083 ) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @04:10PM (#30769828) Homepage
    Is there a patent for breathing, something like "A way to create a vacuum inside the human body in order to force external air inside the lungs, so oxygen can be transferred to the blood."

    I'd love to patent it, then charge something like 0,0001$ per breathe per individual. At 12 breathes per minute * 6 billion humans, it's something like 36 000$ per hour.

    What's great is that it would cost every human ONLY 52.56$ per year. Pretty reasonnable!
  • At least one of the patents is 6292218.

    Claim 1 is a nice example of patenting the goal.

  • by paulsnx2 ( 453081 ) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @04:19PM (#30769952)

    As other posters have already pointed out, we don't have much detail at this time. But let us assume for a moment that the Kodak patent in question is over the ability to preview a picture taken....

    We have had thumbnail representations of pictures for much longer than 20 years.

    And given a digital camera, the first thing you might want, after you take a picture, is to see what the picture looks like.

    If this isn't obvious, what is?

    And exactly how does it advance the technology to have every company pay a "tax" to Kodak who makes a camera with preview ?

    Toss obvious patents! Cut the lifetime of the rest to 5 years!

    If we really wanted free markets, competition, and growth of technology, the goal would be to cut the number of patents filed in the U.S. by 75 percent! Big companies use patents to tax others, and to crowd out competition. Do we really think Kodak had to come around and invent preview for digital cameras? Hogwash.

    • They probably tried to patent the design of the human eye and God (big JuJu, whatever you call it) sued as prior art.

      I am in a quandary over the entire patent vs. copyright issue. If you could patent a book then you could lock out all of your competition from writing about "Westerns involving horses and indians". In a patent you are going after an idea or design.

      To me, software is a creative work more akin to a copyright. If someone wants to mimic your idea using a different software platform and uniquely c

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The patent in question covers the circuit design for avoiding encoding and then decoding an NTSC signal that can be used to generate the real-time and preview time image from the camera. It isn't just a patent that says "we patent the idea of previewing an image", it is quite specific in the diagrams and even the background of the invention.

      Patent #6292218

    • by flatrock ( 79357 )

      5 years? Many technologies take longer than 5 years to bring to market. Why invest millions in research to develop new technologies when you can just take what other people have developed once it starts to mature?

      Your idea won't cause a growth of technology, it will absolutely destroy the profitibility of doing real research into new technologies.

      I agree that there sure seems to be a lot of obvious patents that have been granted, though most are far more narrowly defined than you would think from just rea

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      Sounded to me like an "on a computer" patent. Like Amazon one-click patenting "put it on my tab" + "on a computer." This is patenting "viewfinder" + "on a computer."

      I think that obviousness/prior art should fail if the patent is something that existed before, but is now the same thing "on a computer." Unfortunately, the patent office and courts don't seem to agree with me.
  • not because the service provider wants to "encourage" you to sign up for a two year contract, it's because of all the stacked tech licensing fees.

  • I foresee... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Synchis ( 191050 ) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @04:21PM (#30770010) Homepage Journal

    An out of court settlement with both companies.

    The first thing I see amongst comments here is a bunch of stuff about invalid patents.

    What the /. community needs to understand, is that not *every* patent is invalid just because its being used to sue.

    Kodak is not a patent troll. They do real work, good work, and file patents on it to protect their inventions.

    If there was ever a patent to assume is valid and in good standing, it would be a digital imaging patent, filed by a company that specializes in Imaging (and these days, Digital imaging).

    Kodak is not evil. If these companies think they can implement functionality in their devices just because everyone else does, they need to think again. Everyone else is licensing the technology. If they are not, then they are infringing, and deserve to be sued.

    • by gknoy ( 899301 )

      As soon as we heard that cameras were digital, we pretty much immediately thought, "Oh I can't wait until we can have tiny screens to see what we're taking/took". It's the natural extension of the technology. If my dad can think of this, and I can, it's pretty obvious. The implementation of that, and the techniques you use to do it, should be patentable, but ... isn't the existence of a preview screen something that pretty much any camera-user would have thought of? What am I missing?

      • by jandrese ( 485 )
        You failed to patent it first, that's what you missed. Just think of the licensing fees you could be raking in.
    • Functionality is not a technology, it's a concept. The means to accomplish that functionality is technology. When the concept is as obvious as a preview on a camera, it shouldn't be patentable. It's just common sense.
    • What the /. community needs to understand, is that not *every* patent is invalid just because its being used to sue.

      Perhaps not, but that's the way to bet.

      Given that you already have
      1) The technology for a digital still camera
      2) The technology for a digital movie camera

      is it really patent worthy to have a device which works like a movie camera until a button is pressed, at which point it takes a picture like a still camera? Because that's what Claim 1 of patent 6292218 covers. Oddly enough it only covers

    • Just because it's Kodak, a "not evil" company, doesn't mean they aren't patent trolling. In what way is "preview in cameras" not an obvious feature?

      Classic apologist post BTW. If you were writing the same words defending Apple, you can bet that you'd be modded down like hell.

  • is how long the iPhone and such have been on the market already. If someone markets a product in violation of your patent, especially when it is so popular as the iPhone, then you best ship up pretty quick and get it cleared up instead of waiting a couple years to make a fuss. That just shows that you finally realized you could make a quick buck and not that you just realized the patent was being violated.
    • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @04:52PM (#30770496)

      is how long the iPhone and such have been on the market already. If someone markets a product in violation of your patent, especially when it is so popular as the iPhone, then you best ship up pretty quick and get it cleared up instead of waiting a couple years to make a fuss. That just shows that you finally realized you could make a quick buck and not that you just realized the patent was being violated.

      Or perhaps, Kodak has been trying to reach an agreement with Apple without going to court since the iPhone was released and now filed suit after deciding that Apple was unwilling to license the technology. I don't know either way, but we don't have enough information to decide.

      • by cabjf ( 710106 )
        This was mentioned in another article I read earlier today on Gizmodo []. They also mentioned that Kodak has successfully sued Sun over Java implementing some of the same patent technology. Also, many other phone and camera manufacturers are already paying a licensing to Kodak for the patent. Apple and RIM just could come to agreements with Kodak over it and it is now going to court.
    • ... Or more likely they've been talking with Apple and RIM for a while now, and the negotiations broke down.
  • The day when patents were used to promote innovation.

  • Is it possible that the manufacturer of the camera used in the iPhone pays royalties to Kodak already? Wouldn't that indemnify them? Or is Kodak allowed to collect royalties all along the chain?

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