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U.S. International Trade Commission Opens Inquiry Into Apple, RIM After Kodak Complaint

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has granted a request made by Kodak last month for an investigation of Apple and Research in Motion regarding possible infringement of Kodak patents related to digital camera technology.

The U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington said today it will consider the complaint filed last month and decide whether to ban the imports after Kodak claimed that the companies refused to pay patent royalties on digital-camera technology. Kodak also has a civil lawsuit pending.

Kodak, based in Rochester, New York, claims in the ITC case that Apple and RIM are infringing a patent related to ways to preview images. The civil suit, only against Apple, concerns that patent and additional ones for digital cameras and computer processes.

In its complaint, Kodak contended that it had worked with Apple and Research in Motion "for years" in attempts to resolve the dispute, but had been unable to reach satisfactory agreements. Kodak also noted at the time that disruption of sales of the devices from Apple and RIM was not its "primary interest", suggesting that its complaint with the ITC requesting a ban on import of the devices into the U.S. was designed to gain leverage in its negotiations with the companies.

The ITC's decision to grant an investigation had not been unexpected, as it typically agrees to address such issues. It remains unlikely that imports of Apple's iPhone will be blocked, however, as the companies are much more likely to resolve the impasse prior to the implementation of any such measures.