EASTMAN Kodak has taken a key step towards emerging from bankruptcy protection next year after agreeing to sell its digital imaging patents for about $525 million (£322.6m).
The deal was reached with a consortium led by patent investor Intellectual Ventures and litigation specialist RPX Corp. A portion of the purchase price will come from 12 intellectual property licensees.
Kodak still must sell its personalised and document imaging businesses as part of the financing package, and needs to resolve its pension obligations in the UK.
The firm, based in Rochester, New York, said the patent deal puts it on a path to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the first half of 2013.
Chairman and chief executive Antonio Perez said: “Our progress has accelerated over the past several weeks as we prepare to emerge as a strong, sustainable company.”
Kodak’s patents hit the market as intellectual property values have soared and technology companies have ploughed money into patent-related litigation. Last year Nortel Networks sold 6,000 wireless patents in a bankruptcy auction for $4.5bn.
The patent portfolio was expected to be a major asset for Kodak when it filed for bankruptcy in January, with some estimates valuing it at up to $2.6bn. Although the price it finally achieved did meet that forecast, the group still sold the patents for more than the $500m required to secure its new financing.
Kodak, the inventor of the handheld camera, traces its roots to the 19th century but has been unable to successfully shift to digital photography.
When it exits bankruptcy it is likely to focus on providing products and services to the commercial imaging market.