Battle of Instant Photography

This post was published on August 20, 2014.


August 19 is celebrated as World Photography Day! Photography, in layman’s language, is an art of producing images using a camera. The history of recording images dates back to the late BC, though this cannot be substantiated. Later, in 1839, Louis Daguerre, a French artist and photographer, introduced Daguerreotype, the first publicly announced photographic process. In 1840, the first American patent (US 1582) was issued in photography to Mr. Alexander Wolcott, for his camera that worked on the Daguerreotype principle. Now, telling you about all patents related to photography would be tedious. So, let me tell you the story of an interesting patent battle that took place between two pioneers in photography in hopes of gaining dominance in the field of instant photography.

Eastman Kodak Company, popularly known as ‘Kodak’, is a company which currently focuses on imaging solutions and service for businesses. Kodak once dominated the photographic film industry, as they commanded almost 90% of the market share in the US. This story is of a face-off between Kodak and Polaroid Corporation, a US based international consumer electronics and eye-wear firm. Edwin H Land, founder of Polaroid corporation, introduced the instant photography system that allows for one step, one click photography. This invention, in fact, paved way for all the developments we see in the field of instant photography. Kodak, since the early 1950s, was supplying materials used to make negative film to Polaroid. Polaroid wanted Kodak to have a clear idea of their requirements. So they entered into an agreement with Kodak and disclosed some of their instant color technology to Kodak. However, by early 1969, Kodak launched several projects related to instant photography. Though initial projects were not successful and were abandoned, in 1976, Kodak introduced an integrated one-step photography system. Following this incident, Polaroid sued Kodak alleging patent infringement. Polaroid claimed that Kodak’s one-step photography system infringes on 12 of their instant photography related patents and technology of their then famous SX-70 camera and film.

The court judgement came out in Polaroid’s favour and Kodak was asked to pay as much as US$ 909 million to Polaroid. In addition to this, the Court issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Kodak from selling its instant photography camera and film. The injunction order was upheld on appeal. This incident put an end to Kodak’s instant photography camera business and they became more focused on roll film manufacturing, which, to some extent, helped to regain their reputation. The famous quote “Kodak Moment” was most likely not based on this judgment!

Hope all of you celebrated World Photography Day. Keep Clicking!

Source: here and here

Image: here

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