Typically vicious enemies in the patent wars, Apple and Google are reportedly forging an alliance to snatch up photo-sharing patents from Kodak, the now-bankrupted company whose once-innovative products brought instant photography to the masses.
Apple and Google are offering more than $500 million to buy Kodak patents that "relate to the capture, manipulation and sharing of digital images," reported Bloomberg while citing "people familiar with the situation."
Bloomberg also reported the two companies each led separate groups in failed quests to buy the patents last summer before joining forces in this fresh bid.
The report of the joint Apple-Google effort comes in the midst of a spat over mobile digital imagery between Twitter and Facebook-owned Instagram. Instagram recently stopped allowing Twitter users to properly display Instagram photos on tweets. Twitter is reportedly developing image filters of its own which, if released, would compete directly with Instagram.
Apple and Google, meanwhile, have largely been left to watch that skirmish from the sidelines which could explain exactly why Kodak's patents may be attractive to them, especially if they are for sale at bargain prices from a bankrupted company.
The hardware and operating systems of Apple and Google make Instagram and Twitter's photo-sharing success possible. The underlying irony is that neither Apple nor Google have released successful software to compete directly with Twitter or Instagram. Apple's Photo Stream and Google's Instant Upload involve photo sharing, but these features don't enjoy the widespread popularity of Instagram or Twitter.
The common logic behind Kodak's downfall was its inability to quickly adapt to the digital and mobile world. However, if the patents in question were designed to help the company evolve, they could be attractive to Apple and Google to help their own photo-sharing products. Or, at the very least, the purchase would keep them out of the hands of Facebook/Instagram and Twitter.
Kodak, meanwhile, is in the process of restructuring to focus on photo printing for businesses and other enterprise solutions.