Kodak Is Forced To Sell Patents For Way Less Than They’re Worth

film, Kodak

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Eastman Kodak Co., the bankrupt photography pioneer, agreed to sell some of its digital-imaging patents for about $525 million to a group led by Intellectual Ventures and RPX Corp., part of a plan to emerge from Chapter 11 as a commercial-printing company.Under the terms of the deal, Intellectual Ventures will make a portion of the payment, with the rest coming from 12 patent licensees that it organised with RPX, Rochester, New York-based Kodak said today in a statement. The auctioned patents, which relate to the capture, manipulation and sharing of digital images, were previously estimated to be worth as much as $2.6 billion.

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

Kodak needed to sell the patents for at least $500 million under a November agreement — codenamed Komodo — to obtain $830 million in financing to exit bankruptcy in the first half of 2013. That funding also requires progress in the sale of two business units and resolution of U.K. pension obligations. The patent sale had to be agreed upon by Jan. 31 and must close by Feb. 28, regulatory filings related to the financing show.

Earlier Estimate

Kodak had said the patents may be worth $2.21 billion to $2.57 billion, based on an estimate by advisory firm 284 Partners LLC. In court documents, Kodak said it generated more than $3 billion in revenue by licensing some of the patents to outside users, including Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Inc., Google’s Motorola Mobility unit and Nokia Oyj.

Chief Executive Officer Antonio Perez has been selling businesses to shrink the company and fund its shift into commercial printing and packaging after seeking Chapter 11 protection in January. The company is also selling its consumer- film, photo-kiosk and commercial-scanner businesses and shuttering its consumer inkjet-printer unit.

Kodak filed for bankruptcy after years of burning through cash while the rise of digital photography eroded its film business. The company has announced almost 4,000 job cuts this year and spent $3.4 billion on restructuring before bankruptcy, including payouts to fire 47,000 employees since 2003.

The 132-year-old imaging company listed $5.1 billion in assets and $6.75 billion in debt in its bankruptcy filing.

The bankruptcy case is In re Eastman Kodak Co., 12-10202, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).