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Apple, Google team up for US$500m-plus Kodak patents bid

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Apple Inc and Google Inc have joined forces to offer more than US$500 million to buy Eastman Kodak Company’s patents out of bankruptcy, said people familiar with the situation.

The two companies, competing for dominance of the smartphone market, have partnered after leading two separate groups this summer to buy some of Kodak’s 1,100 imaging patents, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is private.

Unlikely partnerships are typical in patent sales because they allow competitors to neutralize potential infringement litigation. A group including Apple, Microsoft Corporation and Research in Motion Ltd bought Nortel Networks Corporation’s more than 6,000 patents for US$4.5 billion out of bankruptcy last year. Google lost the auction for those patents after making an initial offer of US$900 million.

“Apple and Google learned a lesson from the Nortel’s auction,” said Richard Ehrlickman, former vice president of Intellectual Property at International Business Machines Corporation and president of IP Offerings, a patent brokerage and consulting company in Boca Raton, Florida. “They have decided to come together in this process to reduce the cost of purchasing the Kodak patents, while meeting their business needs.”

The Apple-led group pursuing Kodak’s patents included Microsoft and Intellectual Ventures Management LLC as of July, the people said, while Google’s partners included patent- aggregation company RPX Corporation and Asian makers of Google’s Android phones. The two groups had separately offered less than US$500 million for Kodak’s portfolio. They now teamed up to offer more together, said two of the people.

Niki Fenwick, a spokeswoman for Mountain View, California-based Google, said the company doesn’t comment on rumour or speculation. Christopher Veronda, a spokesman for Rochester, New York-based Kodak, declined to comment on the patent sale, citing a court-ordered confidentiality agreement. Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, declined to comment.

Bloomberg