As Kodak's chief blogger cheerily tweets from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, where it's business as usual with product news and its marketing and sales team ensconced in a booth, the company is showing gritty resolve even as it faces possible bankruptcy. It may be having its financial troubles, but it isn’t going to allow itself to be pushed around. Cue the lawyers.
Eastman Kodak filed suit against Apple, Inc. this week week for allegedly “infringing four patents related to digital camera images,” according to Reuters. Kodak claims that “Apple and HTC are infringing the patents by selling and importing mobile camera phones, tablets and other devices,” such as the iPad 2, iPod touch, and a variety of iPhones, Reuters reports.
Its lawyers appear to be in a suing mood, also taking legal action against Taiwan’s HTC for violating the same four patents along with a fifth, the wire service reports. And the company that once was America’s imaging king also has similar litigation going on with the makers of the BlackBerry, Research In Motion.
The goal of the suits, Reuters notes, is to have the defendants stop selling their products as they currently are constructed and pay Kodak triple the damages. And Kodak could use the dough. The 120-year-old company is rumored to be close to filing for bankruptcy, and recently saw three board members resign abruptly, in addition to some high-level executive departures.
The company announced Tuesday that it will “undergo a major internal reorganization designed to simplify operations, cut costs and improve the company's weak posture on Wall Street,” as Gannett put it.
That restructuring from into two business units from three officially ends the existence of the once-mighty film division, Gannett notes, putting what’s left of it into the consumer and commercial departments. "This new structure simplifies the organization, focuses it more precisely on our consumer and commercial customers, and puts the right people in place to capitalize fully on the tremendous technological capabilities of Kodak," CEO Antonio M. Perez stated.
Reuters highlights another looming legal issue for the company: pensions, particularly in the UK, where Kodak has maintained a London office since 1885.
"The bill is coming due for years of generous pensions and other benefits that the photography company promised employees, especially in the UK where it has manufacturing operations dating to the 1800s and still supports thousands of retirees," Reuters reports. "Kodak's overseas pension and benefit obligations have been underfunded for most of the past decade, its annual reports for that time period show. The company has employee pension plans in France, for instance, but the UK Pension Regulator is unique in that it has aggressive legal authority to pursue funding claims abroad."
A Kodak spokesman declined to comment to Reuters on "the role of the UK pension in the company's current restructuring." The company said Tuesday it was reorganizing into two business units, commercial and consumer, down from three. The move came weeks after three board members resigned without explanation. Expect more of an explanation when the company reports fourth quarter results on January 26th.
Below, Kodak's CES 2012 videos, including a thank you for the one million print jobs at Kodak kiosks via Facebook: