Rochester, N.Y. --- Look at your cell phone just as you’re about to take a photo or shoot a video clip. That image on the screen? That could be the result of dozens of Kodak-owned patents. It is an everyday example of the intellectual property that Kodak’s patent portfolio could include.
Kodak has filed many lawsuits in recent years in an attempt to defend its patents and win licensing or settlement deals with companies that could be mass producing a popular product (see: your cell phone or smart phone) that depends on these patents.
Last year Kodak put a “For Sale Sign” out in front of just 10 percent of its patent portfolio; about 1,100 patents in all. Analysts speculated that a buyer would pay more than $1 billion for them!
Now consider what’s in the patent portfolio. Some of the patents may be technology that is already in use by all sorts of companies in all sorts of products.
Some of those patents may be worth nothing at all. Still others could be worth millions if not tens or hundreds of millions if they land with the right engineers and entrepreneurs.
Lumetrics in Henrietta is the perfect example of what could exist in Kodak’s patent portfolio. In 2003 the company began with little more than eight Kodak-owned patents and some start-up cash.
"The first ingredients; we needed patents from Kodak and we needed some money to start," Co-founder Steve Heveron-Smith said. Nine years later the company employs twenty people locally and is building a multi-million dollar business. "We also influence the rest of the community, we buy boards from a company down in Victor, electronic boards (and) we buy sheet metal from various (local) companies."
Those Kodak patents allow Lumetrics to measure things.
Really, really small things.
“Basically anything plastic and anything transparent we can measure," Technology Director Filipp Ignatovich explained.
This is a really useful thing for other companies, particularly in the multi-billion dollar medical industry. Lumetrics technology measures the thickness of a tubes and balloons used for stents or those medical bags you see when you donate blood. They do so without any human contact with the manufactured device so it can remain sterile.
“We do contact lenses, we measure the center-thickness of a contact lens,” Heveron-Smith explained. “If you don't get that right, you have problems."
This technology is valuable and one can't help but think - if this is what becomes of just eight Kodak patents, then what could happen with the rest?
“There are potentially so many patents that could be pulled out and companies like this could start up," Ignatovich said.
For these reasons High Tech Rochester is aggressively pursuing Kodak for the release of more patents that could lead to local companies like Lumetrics. President James Senall of High Tech Rochester said he’s had recent discussions with Kodak about twelve “families of patents” that could materialize into companies similar to Lumetrics.
"We're looking at, again, some of the smaller opportunities. Smaller in the eyes of a multi-billion dollar company but still very significant for the community where you can take a portfolio of these things and create new companies," Senall explained. "We're going to be ramping up our efforts to try and go after some of those things and create more wins here."
"There is a world of talent here and people who are not afraid to take a chance," Heveron-Smith added.