RFID Patent War Escalates

Intermec claims that Symbol should expect to pay licensing fees for RFID since it's collecting royalties from others for scanning technology, while Symbol accuses Intermec of "stifling" the nascent industry.

The long and bitter intellectual property battle between Intermec Technologies Corp. and Symbol Technologies Inc. raged on this week, as Symbols chief IP counsel accused Intermec of "embarking on an industry-stifling campaign to enforce and collect RFID royalties." Intermecs chief operating officer countered that Symbol is "trying to beat us into a deal that doesnt make any sense for us."

Intermec COO Steve Winter argued that Intermecs right to collect royalties for its RFID (radio-frequency identification) intellectual property is just as strong as Symbols right to charge licensing fees for laser scanning and 802.11 wireless patents.

"Intermec has 140 patents. We might give away one or two, but were not going to give away 140 when weve spent millions and millions of dollars on developing them," Winter said.

"Symbol has a similar investment in laser scanning," he said, "[but] Symbol is unwilling to pay us royalties similar to the ones that [Intermec and other IT vendors] have been paying them. The terms were offering [Symbol] are reasonable and nondiscriminatory."

Aaron Bernstein, Symbols chief IP counsel, said that Symbol—Intermecs legal adversary in a series of suits and countersuits around RFID, 802.11 and scanning patents—doesnt take issue with a companys rights to collect royalty fees.

"Symbol has been very vocal, public, and aggressive in its statements. You dont overdo it and stifle an entire industry, [so that] it will be impossible to sell a commercially viable [RFID] product without a license, when this technology hasnt even gotten off the ground yet," Bernstein said.

The lengthy, complicated, and acrimonious legal saga began last summer, when Intermec sued Matrics Inc.—a company since acquired by Symbol—for allegedly infringing upon four Intermec patents specifically related to RFID.

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