RFID Consortium One Step Closer to Patent Pool Goal

The industry group hires Via Licensing to test and administer patents for UHF RFID.

A little more than a year after it formed in August 2005, the RFID Consortium is one step closer to its goal of developing a patent pool for RFID-based technology.

The RFID Consortium announced Sept. 5 that it has hired Via Licensing to administer a licensing program around UHF (ultra high frequency) radio-frequency identification, the frequency promoted for tags and readers in EPCglobals Generation 2 standard.

The goal of the Consortium—a group of about 20 companies that develop RFID-based chips, tags, labels and readers—is two-fold: to offer an efficient and relatively low cost patent management system for companies within the patent pool, and to provide a sort of one-stop-shopping experience around RFID patents for manufacturers and users.

Vias role is to essentially build the RFID Consortiums patent pool. In about a month the company will put out a call for UHF patents. It then employs an independent patent attorney to assess which patents are essential to the standard and invites those patent holders to become part of the patent pool. Once the pool is determined, Via sets license and royalty fees for patent holders and users, and then collects and distributes those fees.

"Over the course of time it could be that other companies come forward and say they have something as well, and that gets added to the pool," said Ed Schummer, president of Via. "For the licensee thats a good thing—the price never changes. And patent holders can start deriving revenue from a patent in a way that is relatively low cost."

Via, based in San Francisco, is one of about a dozen companies that administer patents specifically for the purpose of forming so-called patent pools. The model was pioneered by DVD formatting and MPEG-2 video decoding technology providers. Schummer said his company represents about 10 patent pools supporting various standards.

The RFID Consortium includes Alien Technology; Applied Wireless Identification Group; Avery Dennison; Moore Wallace, an RR Donnelley Co.; Symbol Technologies; ThingMagic; Tyco Fire & Security; and Zebra Technology.

There is one notable exception to the consortium: Intermec Technologies. The RFID hardware and software manufacturer has been at odds with other technology companies over its Rapid Start program, which tightly controls licensing around its 145 patents that, in many cases, address core functionality—particularly with respect to EPCglobals Gen2 standard for RFID readers.


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