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new ITC claim makes life rotten for Apple

15 January 2010

Apple is already embroiled in an International Trade Commission (ITC) dispute with its competitor and mobile phone giant Nokia over alleged infringement of both parties’ patents . Now Apple, along with RIM (of Blackberry fame) are the subject of a new complaint before the ITC brought by Kodak.

Kodak has already successfully enforced its “picture previewing” patent against Samsung and Sun Microsystems in the recent past. In this new complaint to the ITC, Kodak is seeking to enforce the same patent against Apple and RIM, presumably with a view to securing favourable licensing revenue from the handset manufacturers.

This new action reinforces the view that the big players in the technology market regard the ITC as a forum with considerable bite. The ITC’s ability to force a ban on the supply of infringing products together with the ability to award damages within a process which can be far quicker than the equivalent process through the US courts marks it out as a forum of choice.

However, in a world in which open source and standardised technology is prevalent, one might question whether a readily available ban on supply really encourages innovation, or whether it rather leaves technology providers at the mercy of patentees. An environment in which patentees are encouraged to declare their patents as essential to a particular standard and then make them available to be used under licence on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms also exists, but whilst patentees have the threat of an ITC action at their disposal, they will of course continue to use that to maximum effect.

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