RFID vendors dive into patent pool

By Control Engineering Staff August 11, 2005

A group of 20 RFID vendors has announced the formation of a ‘patent pool’ consortium intended to simplify and streamline users’ access to RFID intellectual property. The announcement made a splash with analysts.

‘RFID is about integrated solutions,’ said Erik Michielsen, ABI Research’s director of RFID and ubiquitous technologies, in a statement. ‘It’s not about standalone companies taking ownership of the whole marketplace. Companies need to build cooperative solutions to move this market forward, and this is yet another example of how companies are working together to create more sustainable and scalable RFID solutions.’

Founders of the consortium, which is modeled after existing industry groups that license MPEG and DVD technology, include Alien Technology, Symbol Technologies, Avery Dennison, Thingmagic, Moore Wallace, AWID and Zebra Technologies.

Most notable among the RFID vendors yet to jump in is Intermec Technologies, which has been at loggerheads with end users and other industry players over its tight control of licenses for a number of important core patents it holds.

Intermec’s absence, however, will not drain the consortium’s momentum, according to analysts.

‘Regardless of how Intermec’s IP issues are resolved, there are dozens of other IP holders in the market that are looking to profit from EPC Gen2 licensing,” said Michielsen. “They spent large amounts of money on R&D and they want to be rewarded for that investment. Because of the number and disparity of such patents, the industry — in the absence of a process like the one now beginning — would be heading for stagnation and quagmire.’

The new group, Michielsen added, provides a clear migration path for scalable, long-term EPC Gen2, and should extinguish users’ concerns about RFID intellectual property.

‘With or without Intermec, the number of patent negotiations will be reduced from potentially hundreds down to a handful,’ said Michielsen. “If need be, companies can still address Intermec licensing on a one-to-one basis. The market will still move forward more quickly.’

To keep momentum strong, however, ABI Research believes that silicon vendors need to show support publicly. To buoy the group’s credibility, the firm added, silicon manufacturers such as Texas Instruments and Philips need to sign on as charter consortium members.

Electronic News, Online staff

This originally appeared at Electronic News