The threat of bankruptcy is one of the more daunting parts of running a business, but all companies must prepare for such a contingency and determine how intellectual property management strategies could be affected if they or a business partner fall on hard times.
"It is common for debtors to seek authority to sell assets or seek determination on key business issues on an expedited basis such that parties-in-interest may have only a matter of days or weeks to respond," noted attorney John La Liberte in a recent guest column for Corporate Counsel. "In short, bankruptcy can be a minefield for the uninitiated."
This is of particular interest to patent holders and intellectual property licensors engaged in ongoing business relations with a debtor that is contemplating a liquidation of its assets. According to La Liberte, joint ownership claims can be especially thorny, as a bankrupt business partner may sell away its rights to a third party and threaten the interests of the original owner if it is slow to respond.
As Eastman Kodak continues to plot its course through bankruptcy proceedings, its intellectual property portfolio has been a primary topic of conversation. According to Reuters, the company recently took advantage of bankruptcy law provisions to abandon its naming rights to the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, a 20-year agreement originally worth $74 million when signed in 2000. Company officials contend that a continued liquidation of its intellectual assets may be the only way to turn Kodak's fortunes.