Kodak Claims Patent for Online Photos. No, Really.

So, Kodak is suing Shutterfly because it claims to have invented the idea of putting pictures on the Internet.

So, Kodak is suing Shutterfly because it claims to have invented the idea of putting pictures on the Internet.

Kodak’s decision to start legal proceedings against Shutterfly will have put scores of web-based photo companies such as Flickr and Google, on high alert, [Deborah Bould, a specialist in intellectual property at law firm Pinsent Masons] told BBC News.  “The patents Kodak holds are incredibly broad, effectively covering images that are stored centrally and can be ordered online,” she said.  That’s likely to mean Kodak will go after other online image sites it believes also infringe its patents, she added.

Kodak said it has over 400 similar patents.

“We are committed to protecting these assets from unauthorised use,” it said in a statement.

Given the expense of patent cases, many smaller firms may choose to licence Kodak’s technology rather than fight claims, said Theo Savvides, head of intellectual property at Osborne Clarke.  But firms such as Google and Yahoo “have deep pockets” that would allow them to challenge Kodak’s claims, he added.

[…]

Kodak has been hit hard by the shift towards digital photography, but has recently shown a greater willingness to assert its rights for technology it believes impinge on its patents.

Earlier this year Kodak said it would sue Apple and BlackBerry maker, Research in Motion, over technology used in their handsets.

This is truly preposterous.  But it really doesn’t matter:  As Savvides notes, simply being served with notice of an intent to file a lawsuit is enough to make startups capitulate in fear regardless of merits.  Most people don’t have the ability to tie up millions of dollars for several years in the hopes of victory.  It’s like the old “War Games” mantra:  the only way to win is to not play.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Law and the Courts, Quick Takes,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    So that’s what happened to Kodak after it got out of the film biz. I wonder if this will go the route of that San Diego law firm which tried to claim it had the patent on the hyperlink? And,

    “Most people don’t have the ability to tie up millions of dollars for several years in the hopes of victory. ”

    Google certainly does. This’ll be fun to track. A quick look at the jpeg wikipage reveals no mention of Kodak at all.

  2. Anon says:

    It is preposterous, but no more so than many, many patents. The patent system is in severe need of reform, but I don’t see much hope. The ones with the power to change the system (big companies, lawyers) don’t have much incentive. The ones who are most hurt by it either don’t really understand the damage (the public), or don’t have the power (small, innovative startups). A few small startups will eventually become big corporations with the power, but by then they are heavily invested in the system as it is, and thus have little incentive.

  3. Franklin says:

    In before the patent lawyers who claim this is “non-obvious”.

  4. Belinda says:

    This is a really good way for Kodak to lose a shit ton of business. Way to go guys.

  5. john personna says:

    The patent isn’t really about displaying indexes. It is apparently about indexing them:

    System and method for selecting photographic images using index prints

    Via Patently Obvious

  6. JKB says:

    If there ever was a sell signal for Kodak, this is it. Big bright neon sign that says, “we got nothin’ for our future.”