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Bankrupt Kodak to sell patents to notorious 'troll' firm for $525M

A view of the Kodak booth is seen during the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jan. 11, 2012.

STEVE MARCUS/STEVE MARCUS/REUTERS

Bankrupt camera maker Eastman Kodak Co agreed to sell its digital imaging patents for about $525-million to a consortium led by Intellectual Ventures and RPX Corp, a key step to ending its bankruptcy.

The photography pioneer said a portion of the payment will come from 12 intellectual property licensees organized by Intellectual Ventures and RPX Corporation.

A sale of the roughly 1,100 patents, which Kodak has said could be worth as much as $2.6-billion, has been a key element of the Rochester, New York-based company's plans to shift its focus to commercial packaging and printing from photography.

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Intellectual Ventures was founded by former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold to amass patents and collect license fees on the technologies. The company has been disparagingly referred to as a "patent troll" in Silicon Valley: the unflattering nickname arose due to their habit of demanding fees (with the threat of litigation) from unsuspecting businesses, much like mythical trolls that lie in wait under bridges to extract tolls from travellers.

In previous reports on the patent sale technology firms Apple Inc. and Google Inc. had allegedly 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 and Asian manufacturers of Google's Android phones, including presumably Samsung, the largest Android phone maker, as well as LG and HTC, though original reporting by Bloomberg did not identify those manufacturers by name.

The agreements are subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.

The Kodak bankruptcy case is in Re: Eastman Kodak Co. et al, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-10202.

With files from Reuters reporter Sarah McBride

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