U.S. trade agency to investigate Apple's patent complaint

Apple's complaint follows one by Kodak alleging the iPhone's method for previewing camera phone images has been patented by Kodak

The U.S. International Trade Commission will investigate complaints by Apple that Eastman Kodak violated its patents related to digital imaging devices and software, the latest dispute in a long-standing patent skirmish between the two companies.

Apple filed a so-called section 337 complaint against Kodak on April 15, alleging that the company had violated its patents related to digital imaging devices and associated software. In the complaint, Apple asked the USITC to bar Kodak from importing products containing the technology into the U.S.

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The USITC announced late Thursday it would investigate the complaint by Apple.

U.S. companies alleging patent infringement by competitors often file section 337 complaints in addition to filing lawsuits. Many section 337 complaints result in a settlement.

Apple's complaint against Kodak came after the USITC, in February, voted to investigate a complaint filed by Kodak against Apple and Research In Motion. In that case, which is still pending before the USITC, Kodak alleged that Apple and RIM violated patents related to mobile phone and other devices containing digital cameras.

Kodak filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple and RIM in January. In the lawsuit, Kodak alleged that the Apple iPhone and some BlackBerry smartphones use a method for previewing camera phone images that has been patented by Kodak.

Apple responded with its own lawsuit in April. Apple's complaint against Kodak alleges that the company has infringed two patents -- one involving unified memory architecture in digital cameras, and one involving modular digital imaging processing. Several Kodak camera models infringe the patents, Apple alleged.

In the new USITC investigation, the agency will set a target date for completing the investigation within 45 days.

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