Apple, Google Teaming Up to Buy Kodak Patents: Report

Apple and Google, cooperating in a way unimaginable under Steve Jobs' rule, are chipping in to buy Kodak's imaging patents.

Apple and Google have a rivalry that's about as intense and cutthroat as tech rivalries go. But the leaders of each also know when to shake hands. The device makers have teamed up to offer Kodak more than $500 million for a portfolio of about 1,100 imaging patents, according to a report from Bloomberg that cited people who wish to remain unidentified.

The companies, separately, had earlier offered Kodak less money.

"The Apple-led group pursuing Kodak’s patents included Microsoft and Intellectual Ventures Management LLC as of July, the people said, while Google’s partners included patent- aggregation company RPX Corp. and Asian makers of Google’s Android phones," said the Dec. 8 report. "The two groups had separately offered less than $500 million for Kodak’s portfolio. They now teamed up to offer more together, said two of the people."

That Google and Apple could team up suggests a healing of old wounds, a desire to stay out of court later—should one or the other win the portfolio—or simply the attractiveness of the patents. In 2011, Apple rounded up a posse that collectively outbid Google for 6,000 Nortel Networks patents related to 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE), wireless, networking and social software.

Nortel had described the patents as covering "nearly every aspect of telecommunications and additional markets as well, including Internet search and social networking."

After Google received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval to bid for the patents, it offered Nortel $900 million. Nortel turned down the offer, instead accepting a bid of $4.5 billion from a consortium, including Apple, Microsoft, Research In Motion, Sony, EMC and Ericsson.

George Riedel, Nortel's chief strategy officer and president of business units at the time, called the dollar amount, and the interest in the patents, "unprecedented."

But so, too, is the number of patent disputes currently being fought among industry players—even companies, such as Ericsson and Samsung, that have had agreements in place for years. Samsung and Apple have also remained in headlines for patent-infringement cases around the world. While a U.K. court ruled in favor of Samsung this summer, a U.S. court in August ruled in favor of Apple and a more than $1 billion fee against Samsung—which the company is currently contesting.

The Google-Apple rivalry, it's been suggested, was also more intense when Steve Jobs, who passed away last year, was in charge of Apple. While Google CEO Larry Page once suggested that Jobs' ire toward Google was more for show than out of anything heartfelt, Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, otherwise.

"I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank to right this wrong," Jobs said, according to Isaacson. "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product."

Jobs' successor as Apple CEO, Tim Cook, doesn't share Jobs' passion for "laying all foes to waste," Bloomberg reported earlier this year. "Cook appears to view litigation as a necessary evil, not a vehicle of cosmic revenge."

It seems he also knows when to set a rivalry aside.