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Bids come in low for Kodak's digital-imaging patents

Investor groups backed by Apple and Google make offers in the $150 million and $250 million range, far below the expected $2.6 billion, sources tell The Wall Street Journal.

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Steven Musil
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Opening bids for Kodak's digital-imaging patent portfolio from two competing investor groups backed separately by Google and Apple came in far below the $2.6 billion that the troubled company says it is worth.

The photography pioneer received bids from the two groups in the $150 million and $250 million range, people familiar with the auction process told The Wall Street Journal.

Kodak representatives declined to comment on the reported bid range, citing a court confidentiality order.

"The auction process, including information about bids and the identity of bidders, is confidential pursuant to an order of the Bankruptcy Court," a Kodak spokesman said in a statement. "Disclosure of submitted bids or the identity of bidders would violate the court's order, and Kodak believes that speculation about the details and potential outcome of the auction is inappropriate."

While Kodak is looking for bids north of $2 billion, one observer told the Journal that bidders don't expect to pay more than $600 million, considered a "healthy" offer.

Kodak, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January, is attempting to auction off a vast portfolio the company said has generated more than $3 billion in licensing revenues since 2001. The company is required to sell off some of its intellectual property collection to satisfy a $950 million loan it received from Citigroup to keep it up and running in the interim.

Apple and Google have been locked in a fierce battle for dominance of the mobile OS market, and the patents, crucial to the operation of cameras, phones, and other devices, could provide some legal muscle. Apple has asserted itself as the rightful owner of some of those patents, but a U.S. bankruptcy judge last week denied Apple's claim, saying the company waited too long to make ownership claims.

A Google representative declined to comment. CNET also contacted Apple for comment and will update this report when we learn more.

The two rivals have competed before for high-stakes mobile technology patents. In July 2011, a consortium of technology companies comprising Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion, and Sony bought some 6,000 patents and patent applications from Nortel Networks for $4.5 billion. Rivals Intel and Google reportedly began the bidding for the intellectual property, which included patents and patent applications for wireless, wireless 4G, data networking, optical, voice, Internet, and semiconductor technologies, at $900 million.