RFID Consortium forms to protect intellectual property

A group of companies involved with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology plan to form an intellectual property licensing consortium to offer a patent management approach for patent holders and convenient access to RFID patents for manufacturers and end-users. The group is also calling for other companies or individuals holding essential RFID patents to join in the proposed consortium.

Recognizing that the intellectual property landscape for RFID is complex and that there will be numerous important patent holders, nearly 20 companies have worked together to develop a patent consortium. This consortium will be modeled after the successful patent licensing consortium formed and implemented around essential technologies in the MPEG-2 and DVD industries.

The RFID consortium is intended to provide a structured approach for holders of RFID patents to receive fair compensation for those patents, at a reasonable cost to the end-user, thus promoting rapid adoption of RFID.

The consortium will license patents that are essential to the commercially viable operation and manufacture of RFID chips, tags or labels, and readers. Such consolidated licensing enables the use of broad-based technologies covered by many patents owned by diverse patent holders.

Under the proposed licensing arrangement, all essential RFID patents owned by members of the consortium will be made available to interested companies via a single license on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

Carl McGrath, chief technology officer at Tyco Fire & Security, worked with the MPEG consortium as an executive at AT&T. According to him, the RFID Consortium could significantly help the commercialization of RFID technology. "I witnessed the success the MPEG consortium had in contributing to the rapid expansion of the digital cable industry and I believe this new consortium can have the same effect for RFID," McGrath says.

The consortium will be based on, and supportive of, the standards and specifications announced by EPCglobal, a not-for-profit organization involved in proposing standards for Electronic Product Codes and RFID technology, as well as ISO (International Standards Organization) counterpart proposed standards. The consortium will be open to all patent holders, regardless of whether they were involved in the development of those standards. The EPCglobal and ISO specifications are expected to be followed by RFID technology users to ensure interoperability. The consortium expects to work in parallel with those standard setting organizations to assist in the commercialization and wide acceptance of the standards they independently develop.

The involved companies intend to submit their plan for the RFID licensing consortium to the Department of Justice for formal business review.

Companies that have signed term sheets to become members of the consortium as of the date of this release include: Alien Technology Corp., Applied Wireless Identification Group Inc., Avery Dennison Corp., Moore Wallace, Symbol Technologies Inc., ThingMagic Inc., Tyco Fire & Security and Zebra Technologies Corp.

For information about joining the consortium, e-mail [email protected] or call 312-807-4399.

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