On this day in Photo History!
On April 26, 1976, Polaroid Corporation filed a complaint charging Eastman Kodak Company for infringement on twelve Polaroid patents relating to instant cameras and film. Over the next five years, the two companies launched extensive discoveries on the issues of liability and patent infringement.
The issue was not solved until 1991 (14 and a half years in court) and Polaroid was eventually awarded $925 million over the issue. This was the largest patent settlement until 2012, in Apple vs Samsung. As a result of an injunction, Kodak was prevented from ever selling it’s instant cameras and film. Kodak also had to purchase back all 16 million of its instant cameras that had been sold.
However, many experts believe that this lawsuit took a creative and financial toll on Polaroid that they could not recover from. In July of that year, Polaroid reported an 18.5% drop in their net income and said that their profits were hampered by multiple factors. After that report, Polaroid began to explore cutting costs and exploring new product ideas.
So who was hurt more from the patent infringement? Polaroid, who won the legal battle but ended up losing sales? Or Kodak, who paid for their infringement but continued on to be successful in the film industry? Which company has managed to stand the test of time? Which company is more synonymous with instant film or instant cameras?