“There are a lot of breakthroughs that can be spun off.” KODAK EYES ITS OLD PATENTS

Too Little Too Late For Retired Employees Kicked Off Retirement and Survivor Benefits And Came Up With These Old Patents


Company seeks to use research in new ways


Matthew Daneman

Staff writer

Jeff Clarke

“There are a lot of breakthroughs that can be spun off.”


When it was a photography and imaging giant, Eastman Kodak Co. routinely spent many hundreds of millions a year on research and development. Some of its scientists’ discoveries became new products. Some ended up in a file cabinet. Today a much smaller company, Kodak is looking at new ways of turning those mountains of unused patents into business, CEO Jeff Clarke said Wednesday.

“There are a lot of breakthroughs that can be spun off,” he said as he stood in George Eastman House’s Dryden Theatre, surrounded by dozens of Kodak scientists for the company’s annual Distinguished Inventors Celebration.

Instead of focusing solely on discoveries that could lead to Kodakbranded billion-dollar products, the company will look to the venture capital universe — trading technology for a stake in other companies — or to original equipment manufacturers that would use Kodak technology inside its own products, said Clarke, who started as CEO in March.

Clarke in August announced a new business group, Kodak Technology Solutions, aimed at better commercializing its intellectual property.

While Kodak is focused on a set of printing-related businesses, its patent portfolio has potential uses well outside that, Clarke said Wednesday. “There are health care opportunities, consumer opportunities. …”

The Distinguished Inventors event recognizes its scientists who reach particular milestones in terms of patents awarded. Twelve researchers received their 20th patents over the past year. Another three received their 40th. And two received the company’s Century Award for 100 patents.

Working in Kodak’s labs, “You didn’t always innovate or create inventions for something at hand,” said Century Award winner Mridula Nair of Penfield. “Our management is now seeing this and working to explore the possibilities.”

Kodak now is “like a startup company but with huge intellectual property,” she said.

In his 22 years with Kodak, researcher Lee W. Tutt of Webster said plenty of his patents never ended up being commercialized.

“When you solve problems, they aren’t always problems that make a lot of money,” said Tutt, holding his Century Award after the ceremony. And while it would be nice if some of his discoveries got new life as potential sources of revenue for Kodak, Tutt said, “I’m a researcher, I’m not a business person. Most researchers in some way are puzzle solvers. That’s why I went into science.”

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