Is the "Kodak Moment" Fading?

The brand name Kodak is synonymous with occasions we want memorialized, and the term “Kodak moment” is readily understood to describe a moment in time that either has been, or should have been, captured on film. Used as a promotional gimmick back in 2008, the “Kodak moment” concept has become part of our vocabulary. But the digital world has eclipsed the traditional world of photography, and it is becoming quite rare for photographers to use film that needs to be developed and printed. While the majority of photographers may still make use of a professional service to print their memories, home printing is becoming more popular and using a computer or mobile device and social media sites as a photo album is now commonplace.

Kodak has been part of American history for more than a century, but the switch to digital, combined with the economic crisis, has some investors expressing doubts that the renowned company will survive. The facts are that Eastman Kodak shares (NYSE:EK) have dropped more than 65 percent in this year and are currently trading at less than $2. Monday’s disclosure that Kodak needs to access $160 from its pre-existing credit line of $400 million was seen by some as another nail in the coffin, as was the downgrading by both Moody’s and Fitch of several of the company’s debt securities on Tuesday.

Eastman Kodak was also listed among the twenty biggest money losers of the prestigious Fortune 500, alongside high-profile fallen angels Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Bank of America, Sprint Nextel and Chrysler Group. While it may seem that the “Kodak moment” is over, some analysts believe that the company can still make it through the current crisis by focusing on their intellectual property and licensing, and aggressively marketing their consumer and commercial printer business. Kodak announced in July that it is investigating some options with regard to the 1,100 digital imaging related patents it holds, with analysts offering an educated guess that the company’s patents are likely worth more than $2 billion. However, developments in technology and the patent laws protecting them, presents a lot of uncharted territory and the value of patents are subject to approval by the International Trade Commission. Kodak is already doing battle with Research in Motion over the use of image previewing technology it claims to hold the patent to – a battle that has reportedly been dragging on for more than a year. Despite these problems, Kodak is backed by some prominent institutional investors, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other private investors. Time will tell if Kodak will continue into the future, or only remain in the annals of history.