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Wednesday, February 17, 2010, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

ITC to investigate Kodak's complaint against Apple

In addition to a probe inspired by a lawsuit from Nokia, the U.S. International Trade Commission announced this week it will also investigate a patent infringement complaint from Kodak against Apple.

The federal agency announced Wednesday its intention to investigate both Apple and Research in Motion over the patent suit from Nokia. The formal investigation is not considered to be a sign of anything, as most high-profile complaints are given a review.

According to The Associated Press, the commission will decide whether to block imports of both the iPhone and RIM's BlackBerry models. The Kodak suit alleges that the iPhone and BlackBerries dating back to 2001 infringe on patents the company owns related to previewing digital images.

The complaint first surfaced in January, when the Eastman Kodak Company filed two lawsuits against Apple in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. The first suit against Apple covers the previewing of images, and processing them at different resolutions. The second lawsuit alleges that Apple has infringed on patents that allow a computer to "ask for help" from another application to carry out certain functions.

Kodak has said it licenses its digital imaging technology to about 30 companies, including handset makers like LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. All of those companies pay royalties to Kodak.

On Dec. 17, Kodak won a similar suit against Samsung. An ITC judge ruled that patent No. 6,292,218 related to color image preview was valid and enforceable. The ITC determined that camera-equipped phones from Samsung violated the patent. Kodak hopes to have the same success against Apple and RIM.

Nokia and Apple currently have a number of lawsuits directed at each other, making accusations of patent violations on both parties' behalves. In late January, the ITC announced it was formally investigating Apple over Nokia's patent complaints. In that case, as well as the Nokia one, the ITC could choose to ban Apple from selling products in the U.S., if it finds the Cupertino, Calif., company to be in violation.