Services & Software

Kodak files bidding plan to auction patent portfolio

Troubled photography company files motion for a confidential bankruptcy auction of its collection of 1,100 digital-imaging patents.

Troubled photography pioneer Eastman Kodak filed a motion today for approval of confidential bidding procedures for the bankruptcy auction of its digital-imaging patent portfolio.

Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection in January, securing financing from Citigroup that allowed the company to continue operations as it restructures. The patents, crucial to the operation of cameras, phones, and other devices, could be useful for a company looking to buy some legal muscle.

Kodak's filing outlines a sales process in which only the identity of the winning bidder and the winning bid amount would be revealed once the auction for the 1,100 patents had closed; other bids and bidders will be kept confidential. The company said the bidding process to date had been hampered by a reluctance by interested parties to act as initial bidder to set a minimum for offers.

"Interest in competitive bidding for the digital imaging patent assets has been chilled by potential purchasers' reluctance to act as a 'stalking horse' bidder in a conventional, public auction," lawyers for the company wrote in the filing.

"The proposed structure of the auction is tailored to the special nature of the assets," Timothy M. Lynch, Kodak's chief intellectual property officer, said in a statement. "The bidding procedures are designed to allow bidders to give us their best offers without fear of showing their cards to competitors. In filing these proposed procedures in advance of the June 30 deadline in our lending agreement, we are moving ahead as quickly as possible with the process of monetizing our digital imaging patent portfolio."

The company said an extensive marketing process over the past year had secured confidentiality agreements from 20 parties interested in the patents. Previous estimates have placed the projected sale price as high as $2.6 billion.

The portfolio has been the subject of many lawsuits recently. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge told Apple in March that it could not restart patent-infringement litigation against Kodak, calling the action inappropriate during bankruptcy proceedings. The patent at the center of that dispute covers technology that allows consumers to preview digital photographs on LCD screens.

The company expects the auction to occur in early August, with a winner to be announced August 13.