March 2, 2001 1:35 PM PST

Kodak sues digital camera makers

Eastman Kodak is suing three of its digital camera rivals, claiming that their models infringe on a number of its patents.

Rochester, N.Y.-based Kodak has filed suit against Sanyo, Agfa-Gevaert and Seiko Epson, claiming that they use a number of Kodak's patented technologies, including a technique for reducing red eye, which plagues digital and traditional photographers alike.

"Kodak has invested millions of dollars in these technologies, and obviously we need to protect our intellectual property," Kodak spokesman Gerard Meuchner said Friday.

An Agfa representative in the United States said she could not comment because she had not seen the suit. Representatives of Seiko Epson and Sanyo were not immediately available for comment.

In its action, filed Feb. 23 in U.S. District Court in Rochester, Kodak seeks an injunction to prevent further alleged infringement as well as unspecified damages.

Meuchner said Kodak has been in talks with a number of digital camera makers, including Sanyo, regarding its intellectual property.

On Feb. 13, Kodak inked a patent-swapping deal with Olympus Optical. At the time, Kodak said it was actively looking to license a portfolio of more than 1,000 patents to other digital camera makers.

Separately, Kodak said Friday that it was halting a stock buyback program as it looks to cut its debt and fund possible acquisitions. Kodak said it has been spending about $1 million a day buying back shares as part of a $2 billion buyback initiative announced in April 1999.

"The current period of economic deceleration provides added incentive to pursue our stated goal of strengthening the balance sheet," Chief Financial Officer Robert Brust said in a statement. "We also want to ensure that we have the financial flexibility to consider acquisition opportunities that might arise during this time of economic weakness."

 

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