At the request of Eastman Kodak, the U.S. International Trade Commission has opened an investigation of Apple and Research In Motion to determine whether they should be barred from importing smartphones that infringe on Kodak patents.
Kodak's complaint against the two companies accuses them of infringing on patents related to digital imaging technologies in cameras built into the Apple iPhone and RIM BlackBerry. If it agrees with Kodak, the USITC could stop importation of the products into the United States.
"The complainant requests that the USITC issue an exclusion order and cease and desist orders," the agency said in a statement.
Apple and RIM did not respond to a request for comment in time for this writing.
Kodak filed the complaint with the USITC on Jan. 14, the same day it filed separate federal lawsuits against Apple and RIM. Kodak said it filed the suits after negotiations failed in reaching an agreement. Kodak is seeking compensation for its technologies.
Kodak, which makes digital cameras and printers, has been hit hard by the economic downturn that has dampened spending by consumers and businesses. The company has built a significant revenue stream though its patent portfolio and has said it expects licensing revenue to average at least $250 million to $350 million a year for the next several years. In 2008, the company reported $9.4 billion in revenue.
Apple and RIM are not the only companies Kodak has accused of patent infringement related to its digital camera technologies. Last month, Kodak and Samsung announced a cross-licensing agreement that ended patent-infringement suits the companies had filed against each other. The companies also dropped complaints they had filed with the USITC.