Patent claims might interfere

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2005-01-03 Print this article Print

Backed by the likes of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has components of the network already in place for use with its suppliers, the network has potential for wide-scale adoption. "Gen 2 is a great step forward to spur the adoption of the EPCglobal Network," said Mike Meranda, president of EPCglobal, in Princeton, N.J. Meranda said 80 percent of the core network components have been ratified or will be ratified next quarter.

"Were moving past the build-out of the functional pieces and really putting the network together for people to participate in," Meranda said.

Hurdles remain

However, even with the passage of Gen 2, major hurdles still need to be overcome, according to industry observers. The first and potentially biggest issue centers on intellectual property. Of the 60 companies that helped develop the standard, only one company, Intermec, filed with EPCglobal to protect its patent work. However, others are expected to make claims, and that has the potential to slow RFID production, the observers said.

EPCglobal reviewed more than 6,000 patents related to RFID and the Gen 2 standard, according to Meranda.

In a report released Dec. 17, a research company, The Yankee Group, said that it is inevitable that patented technologies will be used in building Gen 2-enabled tags and readers and that the owners of those technologies will expect to be paid for their technology contributions. On this front, Boston-based Yankee said Intermec is in the eye of the storm, though definitely not alone.

Another issue is a difference of opinion between EPCglobal and the International Organization for Standardization about the part of the proposed spec that deals with the numbering systems RFID tags relate to. To speed up acceptance of Gen 2, EPC deferred ISO certification until at least this month.

Finally, there is the Gen 2 upgrades issue, which leaves some manufacturers in the lurch on previously purchased equipment that may not be upgradable to the new standard, as promised. To avoid this pitfall, Meranda said, EPCglobal has always recommended users purchase "agile" equipment.

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