Imagine a day when Apple stops selling computers or Dunkin’ Donuts no longer offers those sweets with holes in the middle. Such a day has arrived for Kodak, which has decided to get out of the film business entirely.
On Thursday, Kodak announced it was offering for sale its traditional print-film business, as well as several other business units, to raise cash. The other businesses offer kiosks that provide prints of digital photos, industrial-grade commercial scanners used for mass processing of forms, and photos taken of roller coaster riders in the midst of their ups and downs.
Kodak will continue its focus in the printer industry and confirmed that it will continue to build its enterprise services.
The decision to sell those businesses comes as Kodak has been trying to unload its vault of more than a thousand patents, which it had estimated to be worth as much as US$ 2.6 billion. But, so far, no sales have resulted. In fact, several of the largest potential competitors -- including Apple and Google -- have reportedly formed a group to jointly buy some of the patents, rather than drive the prices up by bidding against each other.
The Wall Street Journal has said that, as a result of the joint bidding, prices for the patent treasure trove are in the range of US$ 250 million.
Even as it tries to sell off its patents, the company is trying to assert rights to some of them. This week, for instance, Apple decided it would appeal a bankruptcy judge’s ruling that backed Kodak, when the latter company sued Apple for asserting claims involving 10 of Kodak’s patents. The judge had ruled in favor of Kodak over two of the patents.
First Digital Camera
The 131-year-old company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, because the film business, with which its name was all but synonymous, had crashed while digital imaging soared.
Interestingly -- or, perhaps, tragically -- Kodak actually invented the first digital camera in 1975, but then focused its digital imaging technology on high-end markets, rather than on consumer and regular professional markets.
The company also pushed into other, non-camera digital imaging areas, such as the release of the Photo CD in 1991 and a line of digital scanners. In 2001, it released an EasyShare line of consumer digital cameras, but, by that time, competition was fierce in the market.
In 2007, it sold its healthy medical imaging business for US$ 2.35 billion, in order to focus on consumers. By 2008, the digital camera market itself was declining, as the camera phone became popular.