Kodak’s CES announcements tell an interesting tale of the power of brands, and what happens to those brands when you start licensing them to other companies.
A lot of people still have positive associations with the Kodak brand and its iconic logos, but it’s worth clearing something up, especially in light of all the cryptocurrency madness that Kodak unleashed at CES: not everything with the Kodak name on it has much connection to a bunch of clever people in Rochester New York.
The parent company, Eastman Kodak, left the consumer photography business in 2012 following court-overseen ‘Chapter 11’ restructuring. Its remaining consumer photo businesses were sold to Kodak Alaris, which continues to sell photo film and printing kiosks.
So it’s worth keeping your fond memories of that company at arms length when you read about its apparent embrace of the blockchain.
|The “Kodak” KashMiner, yours to rent for just $3,400 and a two year contract.|
At CES this year ‘Kodak’ announced both blockchain-based IP protection and cryptocurrency projects, and a scheme that apparently lets you buy a Bitcoin-mining farm for them. However, the KodakOne project appears to be as much a rebranding of an existing project called RYDE as it does a “partnership between Kodak and [RYDE owner] Wenn Media”. Meanwhile, the Kodak KashMiner scheme, which lets you rent the hardware to mine the more famous Bitcoin cryptocurrency appears to be entirely separate: essentially an unconventional investment scheme using industry-standard hardware with the Kodak logo stuck on the side so that there’s something to show at CES.
Essentially, these look a lot like Kodak licensing its name to other companies in much the same way as the current holders of the Polaroid, Rollei and Vivitar names accept fees to let those names get emblazoned on, well, pretty much anything.
Eastman Kodak still makes film, but it appears to have only two customers: Hollywood and Kodak Alaris.
|The Kodak PixPro Orbit360 4K VR camera, by JK Imaging|
Then, of course, there are the cameras. You can still buy ‘Kodak’ cameras: JK Imaging, a California-based company, sells cameras under the Kodak brand. Interestingly, JK Imaging shares and address with General Imaging, which licensed the General Electric brand for its photo products.
Given the way that even the largest names in photography regularly use third-party ‘OEM’ manufacturers to produce some of their models, it’s senseless to try and draw a line between ‘real’ Kodak and licensees of the brand name. That the red and yellow logo doesn’t necessarily tie anything back to your fuzzy memories of Kodachrome, or brilliant developments such as the Bayer color filter.