Apple and Google have joined forces to offer more than $500 million for some of the 1,100 digital imaging patents from Eastman Kodak, according to Bloomberg, citing “two people with knowledge of the situation.”
If the report is accurate, the two companies, which are fierce competitors in the smartphone market, will have taken about four months to produce the joint bid. News emerged in August that the two sides had started discussing such a partnership.
While partnership between the two rivals may seem odd, it’s understandable in the light of the expensive patent litigation wars the two companies have waged over the last couple of years. Apple CEO Tim Cook said “I hate litigation. I absolute hate it,” in an interview published this week. By joining together to bid on the Kodak camera-related patents, Apple and Google ensure that Kodak can’t drive up the price of its patents sale by playing the companies off each other.
Going into the summer, Bloomberg reports, Apple and Google had led two separate consortia to buy the Kodak patents. The Apple-led group included Microsoft and Intellectual Ventures Management, while Google’s consortium included RPX Corp and Asian manufacturers of Google’s Android phones, including presumably Samsung, the largest Android phone maker, as well as LG and HTC, though Bloomberg did not identify those manufacturers by name.
However, in August the WSJ reported that Apple and Google had already started talks about teaming up. It’s probably taken this long just to get this motley crew rounded together for full agreement.
Foss Patents carried a good analysis of the Kodak patents, and the strategy of the talks around them.
Both Apple and Google learned the hard way about how patent wars can get out of hand. In July of last year, a group including Apple, Microsoft, and RIM bought Nortel’s more than 6,000 patents for $4.5 billion. Google lost the auction for those patents, and was forced to scramble to buy the money-losing giant Motorola for $12.5 billion, mainly for Motorola’s large portfolio of patents. That acquisition has proven costly, and, according to some, a colossal mistake. And of course, Apple has learned from the epic legal battling with Samsung. While Apple has won in some cases, the battle has been far from one-sided.
Google, Apple, and Kodak all declined comment on the Bloomberg story.