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Kodak's stock slumps on report it's seeking bankruptcy financing; sues Fujifilm over patents

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Even as the spectre of bankruptcy protection looms, Eastman Kodak Co. is intensifying its efforts to defend its intellectual property.

In a lawsuit it filed here Friday against Fujifilm Corp., Kodak claimed some of its Japanese rival's cameras infringe its digital-imaging technology. At the beginning of the week, Kodak sued Apple Inc. and HTC Corp. claiming some of their smartphones, tablets and other devices infringe Kodak patents related to transmitting images.

The ailing photography pioneer has relied on patent licensing fees and lawsuits to collect $1.9 billion since 2008.

Kodak's stock slumped Friday amid renewed fears that the 132-year-old business icon is preparing to seek bankruptcy court protection from its creditors.

Based in Rochester, New York, Kodak has amassed more than 1,000 digital-imaging patents, and almost all of today's digital cameras rely on its technology. Mining its rich array of inventions — through both licensing deals and lawsuits — has become an indispensable tool in its long and painful digital overhaul.

Kodak claims Fujifilm is infringing five separate patents related to various aspects of capturing, storing, previewing and transmitting images. It said it has licensed the same technology to more than 30 companies, including mobile-device makers such as Motorola Inc. and Nokia Corp.

Years of negotiations ended with Tokyo-based Fujifilm suing Kodak in October for patent infringement, a claim Kodak's chief intellectual property officer, Timothy Lynch, called "a thinly veiled attempt to redirect attention from their continued use of Kodak patented technology."

Calls to Fujifilm were not immediately returned.

Kodak is pursuing a third dispute before the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., against Apple and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. over image-preview technology. Kodak has said it hopes to get $1 billion from a resolution of the two-year-old claim. But the commission, a U.S. arbiter for trade disputes, recently put off its decision until September.

Earlier Friday, Citigroup Inc. and Kodak both declined to comment on a Bloomberg report that Citigroup is in talks to provide Kodak bankruptcy financing.

Bloomberg said three anonymous people familiar with the negotiations said Kodak may seek protection from creditors within weeks and then auction its digital-imaging patents, which analysts estimate could fetch at least $2 billion. Kodak put them up for sale in July, but has seen little interest.

Worries about a bankruptcy protection filing surfaced in September after Kodak hired major restructuring law firm Jones Day as an adviser.

On Friday, Kodak shares fell 15 cents, or 22.3 per cent, to close at 52 cents. They touched a record low of 36 cents Jan. 5.

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