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Apple asks bankruptcy court for OK to sue Kodak for infringement

The iPhone maker is seeking permission from the court because it also plans to file a patent infringement complaint against Kodak with the International Trade Commission, as well as a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Manhattan.

Apple has asked a bankruptcy court judge for permission to sue Eastman Kodak over alleged patent infringement.

The iPhone maker filed its request with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York. Apple says that it plans to file a complaint against Kodak with the International Trade Commission (ITC), as well as a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Manhattan, for allegedly violating patents it holds related to printers, digital picture frames, and digital cameras.

As Bloomberg, which first reported on the request, points out, Apple isn't required to ask the bankruptcy court for permission to sue Kodak. However, in the court filing, Apple said that it was seeking approval "out of an abundance of caution."

Back in May, the U.S. ITC ruled that patent-infringement claims Apple had brought against Kodak related to the way images are displayed on digital cameras had not been violated. Apple hoped to bring its case to the full six-member ITC commission, but that appeal was turned away.

Last month, Kodak targeted Apple once again, filing a lawsuit against the iPhone maker for its alleged violation of patents related to transferring and e-mailing images and sending photos over a cellular or Wi-Fi network. Apple responded by saying the lawsuits should be thrown out.

FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller, who has been keeping a close eye on all the patent lawsuits hitting the industry lately, wasn't so sure Kodak was suing Apple to win. Instead, he argued, Kodak might have sued Apple to market its lucrative patent portfolio.

Last month, Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection after years of trying--to no avail--to catch up to competitors in the digital-imaging industry. The company announced last week that it was discontinuing its consumer-imaging business by the middle of the year so it could focus efforts on more lucrative opportunities. One of those opportunities is licensing its 1,100 digital-imaging patents.

But as Apple has proven in its lawsuits against Samsung, Motorola, and others, it will respond to patent-infringement cases with a barrage of new claims. Whether or not it'll follow through on its latest threat to Kodak, though, remains to be seen.

Neither Apple, nor Kodak immediately responded to CNET's request for comment on Apple's filing with the bankruptcy court.