Why Kodak Needs to Declare Bankruptcy

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It's never a happy time when a cultural icon is brought to its knees. However, in the case of photography pioneer Eastman Kodak (NYS: EK) , it's the only play left in the book. Long gone are the days of photographic film rolls, and with them the reputation of a once-great company. After frantic attempts to sell or license the company's vast portfolio of patents, it seems bankruptcy is the only option.

Enough's enough
It's not surprising that Kodak hasn't been able to lock down a buyer for its large collection of digital patents. With the company's grim financial condition all over the news, potential bidders would rather wait for a more favorable bankruptcy auction of the patents. For this reason, Kodak filing for protection under Chapter 11 is not only imminent, but also necessary.

Big names such as Apple (NAS: AAPL) may be interested in Kodak's suite of patents, which could be valued between $2 billion and $3 billion. Apple buying the rights to these patents would be somewhat of a "Kodak moment," as Kodak once filed a suit against the Mac-maker for patent infringement.

Apple wasn't the only patent litigation filed by Kodak. In recent years it's seemed Kodak's new business model was to leverage their intellectual property by winning patent cases against industry peers. Unfortunately that strategy hasn't panned out that well.

Fading away
As my Foolish colleague John Maxfield discussed, Kodak's fall from grace is the result of the innovator's dilemma, a misfortune in which a company can no longer keep up with disruptive technologies in its industry. However, the lack of product innovation wasn't the only drain on the company. Failure to successfully reinvent itself in new industries like printers was also at fault.

By filing for bankruptcy, Kodak will undoubtedly sell its nearly 1,100 patents and close the final chapter in its more than a century-long history. Is seeking protection under Chapter 11 a card Kodak should have played years ago? Let us know your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.

At the time this article was published Foolish contributor Tamara Rutter owns shares of Apple. Follow her onTwitter, where she uses the handle@TamaraRutter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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